The Cubs outlasted a left-handed starter to beat the Padres 6-5 on Friday, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon still needs to see more from at least three of his right-handed hitters against lefties – or find other answers.
“We’ve been terrible,” Maddon said of the Cubs’ National League-worst .234 team average against lefty pitchers this season before the game.
Their .261 average against righties was fourth in the league – their .804 OPS second.
“We have to be better at that, and we have guys that are really good against lefties that haven’t shown hit yet,” Maddon said of right-handed hitters Albert Almora Jr., Addison Russell and David Bote.
Those are the three guys that if they get back to their normal methods against lefties, that’s really going to help us a lot.”
They combined Friday to go 1-for-7 with an infield single and five strikeouts against Padres lefty Eric Lauer.
The Cubs still are seeking left-handed help for their bullpen as they eye the July 31 trade deadline.
But they have Carl Edwards Jr., in the meantime, after activating the right-hander from the injured list Friday following more than a month rehabbing a strain in the left upper back area.
Edwards long had been a weapon for the Cubs against right-handers and lefties almost equally – and was hot (2.03 ERA in 15 appearances) when he went on the IL.
“When Carl is right, he’s able to mitigate all that [need for a lefty relief option],” Maddon said. “It’s just about him getting assertive and aggressive and letting it fly and not overthinking it. Just go out and pitch and stop thinking about too many items.”
The Cubs won’t use Thursday’s off day to make any changes in their rotation for the upcoming Giants series, meaning the starters for that series are Alec Mills (six innings in his season debut Tuesday), Yu Darvish (coming off back-to-back scoreless starts) and ace Jon Lester (who started Friday).
The Cubs plan to use two off days in the next 10 days to go with a four-man rotation for at least the next turn after that.
If Cole Hamels’ rehab from an oblique injury stays on track, he could be ready to return by the time the Cubs would next need a fifth starter, likely Aug. 2 or 3 at home against the Brewers.
Hamels played catch Friday ahead of a second rehab bullpen session this weekend, after which he’s expected to be evaluated for a possible minor-league rehab start. He has been sidelined since June 28.