Outfield of dreams, or a nightmare of late-spring decisions for Cubs?
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MESA, Ariz. — Job battles? In Cubs camp?
Not this spring. But anyone looking for decisions to be made during the last three weeks should keep an eye on the outfield.
Not only are the five players in the outfield mix the same five getting consideration for the leadoff role, their playing time, across all three spots, is anything but certain.
That goes for Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward, as well. Manager Joe Maddon, who has resorted to platooning him for extended stretches the last two seasons, said Heyward opens the season as the every-day right fielder. For now.
But Maddon, who has been raving about Heyward’s new-look bat this spring (“I love what he’s doing”), doesn’t deny that another tough season at the plate could result in another platoon role.
Meanwhile, Gold Glove-caliber Albert Almora Jr. and power-hitting switch hitter Ian Happ will share the center-field job, though the playing-time split hasn’t been determined.
“It’s a nice situation to be in,” said Maddon, who has seen Happ rake all spring with an occasional fielding gem tossed in and Almora come alive in the last week, including homers in back-to-back games. “Just keep them healthy, and then we have to make a tough decision.”
Lefty-hitting slugger Kyle Schwarber in left field and switch-hitting veteran Ben Zobrist in both corners are expected to get significant time in the lineup, but the calculus is anything but certain.
“From a manager’s perspective, it’s such a good and bad — or difficult — [issue],” Maddon said. “It’s tough to dole out the work. These guys are good, and they all could be starting somewhere at the end of this camp. But we’ll have to figure it out.”
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