On Gold Gloves & cold bats: Cubs manager gives Jason Heyward vote of confidence

A brief pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field offered a reminder Wednesday of the one consistent source of value big-ticket free agent Jason Heyward has brought to the Cubs — just a couple of hours after his manager delivered another vote of confidence about his continued favored status in the lineup.

“I know we haven’t arrived offensively where want to arrive yet with him,” manager Joe Maddon said. “However, he’s been a grand part, a great part, of our success over the last three years.”

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Heyward, the only Cubs left-handed hitter in the lineup against Pirates lefty Steven Brault, received his 2017 Gold Glove award before the game for his work in right field.

Heyward this spring.

It is the fourth consecutive and fifth career Gold Glove for Heyward, who entered the 11th game of the season just 7-for-31 (.226) with a .660 OPS.

“Listen, I don’t know how many times I’ve told him, ‘I feel so much better when you’re on the field,’ ” Maddon said. “The Gold Glove award is one of the top awards in all of baseball. I love having guys that win that award.

“Normally, if you have a couple of those, you probably had yourself a pretty good year as a group.”

It has worked out well enough for the Cubs as a team during the outfielder’s first two seasons, but the tension between his exceptional fielding and tepid hitting is something that could reach a tipping point against his playing time before he gets much deeper into his eight-year, $184 million contract.

“A lot of times that award goes to an offensive player,” Maddon said. “The fact that he’s really been able to hold serve in the eyes of the industry while he’s still working to get to that level he’s capable of offensively, I think it’s pretty impressive.”

Wednesday night, Heyward grounded to second in his first two at-bats — including the third inning with the bases loaded after a two-out intentional walk to Javy Baez.

“He makes a huge difference for us,” Maddon said. “When he’s on the field and Javy’s on the field, and we have all our defense on the field, from the dugout, I promise you it feels a whole lot better.”

Bullpen intrigue

So did they dance or didn’t they?

“We can’t always tell you everything,” reliever Carl Edwards Jr. said while talking about whether his bullpen crew did its famous home run dance for either of Baez’s home runs during Tuesday’s home opener.

“It’s like a box of chocolates: You never know.”

Although the Cubs’ bullpen camera failed to show the happenings in the hidden bullpen on the video board after the homers, a left-handed source said they danced for Baez’s first one but did not for the second, in part because Eddie Butler was warming up.

“They made such a big deal about it, and then they didn’t show it on the board,” lefty Brian Duensing said. “That was kind of disappointing.”

Duensing got his airtime Wednesday night when Baez did it again — his three-run homer in the second gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead.

Dugout questions

Maddon has talked to ballpark operations about a few alterations to the new dugout that might include widening one of the entrances to the field and building a step for the players to stand on, just behind the rail.