The Cubs offense has been searching for consistency over the last few games, and with third baseman Kris Bryant out while he receives treatment on his left wrist, Ian Happ has gotten an extended look in the leadoff spot.
The switch-hitting center fielder provided a spark once again during Wednesday’s doubleheader, leading off Game 1 by crushing his second career leadoff homer off the right-field scoreboard.
“Really just focusing on having good at-bats,” Happ said. “That’s my goal day in and day out, is putting together really quality at-bats. … Get on base for [Rizzo]. That’s what I want to keep doing.”
Even with Happ’s success, don’t expect a ton of change in manager David Ross’ lineup as his team still searches to find a collective offensive rhythm.
“I think what’s important is that as a manager, when you start shuffling the lineup all over the place, it screams panic in the locker room and screams a lack of trust in the players,” Ross said. “If we’re going to succeed, we need the guys at the top of that lineup to do well, and I trust those guys. They’ve got a track record, they’re proven in this game, and for us to do the things we want to do, we have to have success out of those guys.
“Moving guys all around has never been the answer, in my opinion from my career. Maybe we shuffle a guy. Ian obviously earned his way up to a little bit to the top of the lineup and is proven in his resume as it continues to grow. ... I learned early on you gotta have faith in your players if you want to go far and give them your trust and give them as much confidence on a daily basis as you possibly can for them to see.”
Happ has been the team’s best and most consistent hitter to start the season. And as the early results have shown, he’s taking to the role atop the Cubs’ lineup.
In five games as the team’s table setter, Happ is hitting .353 (5-for-14) with three homers, four RBI and four walks. He’s now slashing .315/.443/.681 with six homers, 14 RBI and a 1.109 OPS on the season.
Happ’s production has given Ross another viable leadoff option. While Bryant’s struggles at the top of the lineup have limited the offense in some ways, the Cubs’ skipper won’t lock himself into making a decision before Bryant returns.
“When Kris comes back, we’ll assess,” Ross said. “I trust Kris Bryant anywhere in the lineup, especially up there at top. Do I think his struggles have anything to do with the leadoff spot? No, if that’s the question that you’re alluding to. But if it makes us better at some point to move him down, then I’ll talk to Kris about that and get back to you guys about it.”