From megabucks hitting bust to All-Star starter in one year?
Say hey to Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward, who, in the latest National League All-Star voting update released Monday, held his lead for the final starting outfield spot.
What would it mean to make his second All-Star team a year after his worst season — .230 with seven homers in 2016?
“It [means I] was doing something right,” Heyward said. “It was doing something to help the team, something to help the team win. If you’re focused on that stuff, then everything else will take care of itself.”
Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant maintained his lead for a starting nod at third base, while the biggest change in the voting since last week was Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo knocked out of the top spot at his position by the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman.
Heyward, who put in extra work in the offseason on his swing, has improved closer to his career averages this year (.258, five homers, .723 OPS through Sunday) — though he was clearly getting more of a Cubs World Series bump in voting than being recognized for All-Star hitting prowess.
Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber rank 3-4-5 in outfield voting, while catcher Willson Contreras (second), second baseman Javy Baez (second) and shortstop Addison Russell (third) all rank in the top three at their positions.
Less than an hour into the game Friday, manager Joe Maddon regretted his decision to drop Schwarber to the No. 7 spot —then reacted swiftly by dropping him to ninth.
“I hated Schwarber hitting seventh,” he said of his struggling former leadoff man. “I knew I’d made a mistake his first at-bat. They were not going to pitch to him.”
Schwarber struck out swinging at a 3-2 pitch in the second inning, with struggling Russell behind him.
“If you don’t put somebody reliable behind him, they’re going to see that in the meeting before the game and say, ‘Listen, we’re not going to pitch to that guy,’ ” Maddon said.
Schwarber, whose only three hits since May 17 are home runs, hit a grand slam Saturday and walked three times Sunday.
“For me, [Sunday] was even better,” Maddon said.
Happ sits after big day
A guy hits two homers, and the next day he’s on the bench? Sure, if Maddon is your manager.
“I had this set up the day before, actually, before [Ian] Happ hit the two homers,” Maddon said of his preference for Albert Almora Jr. in center against Marlins starter Dan Straily on Monday instead of Happ, who hit two homers from the leadoff spot Sunday.
“Regardless of what Happ did, Almora was going to play [Monday],” Maddon said.
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