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‘Force multiplier’ Jason Heyward embraces turn in Cubs’ leadoff spot


Maybe this is the way it’s going to be for the rest of the season for the Cubs at the top of the order. Maybe it’s the way manager Joe Maddon should have handled it from the start.

Since the failed 36-game experiment of Kyle Schwarber leading off, the Cubs largely have gone with a matchup approach at the top of the lineup, including using Jason Heyward there in three of the last four games.

‘‘We talked a little bit before the [All-Star] break about the possibility of doing this, so that I know he’s in,’’ Maddon said of batting Heyward, who entered the game Monday against the White Sox hitting .364 with a 1.036 OPS since the break, in the leadoff spot.

‘‘And look how he’s hitting the ball right now and the fact he’s kind of neutral [against left-handers or right-handers]. Overall, you look at the other candidates, his on-base [percentage] is actually higher than those other guys. And I think the fact that he’s into it matters.’’

Maddon also said Heyward has been a big part of some of the renewed vigor and better vibe on the field and in the dugout since the break.

‘‘Watch him coming off the field,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘He’s high-fiving batboys. I love that stuff. You need that unifying force. He’s a force multiplier.’’

Catching moves?

With the front office in on veteran catchers Alex Avila of the Tigers and Jonathan Lucroy of the Rangers in the final week before the trade deadline, Maddon talked for the first time about the value of rookie Victor Caratini playing every day in the minors.

‘‘That’s not denigrating Victor,’’ said Maddon, who was effusive in his praise. ‘‘Victor is at the point in his development that you don’t want him sitting around this much. As a development guy, it bothers me to see him there, and he’s in a great mood every day. He’s ready every day. . . .

‘‘But with young guys like that, it’s really tough to watch them sit on the bench because you know how important that year is to them. So moving forward, I know there’s different things we have discussed, but I’m not sure exactly where it’s at.’’

Alarm bells

With the start of Cubs-Sox week, Maddon hosted Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson in his office before the game and came away from the meeting with a coveted Hawk Harrelson Alarm Clock.

‘‘It’s on my desk; it looks very cool,’’ said Maddon, who now can rise each morning to the sounds of several Hawk-isms. ‘‘We’ve always had a good relationship, good conversation, even in Tampa Bay. It’s really nice that he brought that for me.’’

This and that

The Cubs optioned right-hander Felix Pena to Class AAA Iowa to make room on the roster for right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who was activated from the disabled list to start.

• Maddon said he expects Schwarber to be the Cubs’ designated hitter for the games Wednesday and Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Sox are scheduled to start right-handers in both games.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.



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