Precautionary days for Ben Zobrist boost Javy Baez playing time
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PITTSBURGH — So much for that dilemma about getting Javy Baez regular playing time at second base.
Manager Joe Maddon showed again Wednesday that he plans to rest and preserve Ben Zobrist for what the club expects to be another seven-month season.
Zobrist, who was out of the lineup for three games last week because of soreness in his lower back, was on the bench again ahead of a scheduled day off even though he told Maddon he was fine to play.
“I’m being respectful from his back’s perspective,” Maddon said. “Give him two days down, it sets him up for [the weekend series in] Boston. Coming off that stiff back a couple of days ago, why do I want to put him in another stiff-back mode?”
Zobrist already has been on the bench for six of the Cubs’ first 21 games. Seven of his 15 starts have come at second base.
“I’m looking at the big picture down the road,” Maddon said. “The latter part of the season, I want him to be well and healthy.”
Uehara sticking to task at hand
Cubs reliever Koji Uehara, the former Red Sox closer who got the last out of Boston’s 2013 World Series championship, downplayed how much he might be looking forward to his first trip back.
“To tell you the truth, not very much,” he said through the team translator.
Besides, he had talked to the Red Sox about returning after last year, “but Boston decided to pursue another reliever. That was the end of that.”
So the bigger point would be, does he want to stick it to the Red Sox this weekend?
“Well, not really,” he said. “It’s not going to be a revenge thing or anything like that.”
The Cubs are using their day off to adjust their rotation next time, moving right-hander Kyle Hendricks up to the series finale Sunday in Boston and pushing left-hander Brett Anderson back to the homestand opener Monday against the Phillies, who have struggled against lefties in the early going.
The pitching matchups this weekend: Jake Arrieta (3-0, 3.65 ERA) vs. left-hander Drew Pomeranz (1-1, 4.60) on Friday, John Lackey (1-3, 4.88) vs. knuckleballer Steven Wright (1-2, 8.66) on Saturday and Hendricks (2-1, 4.50) vs. lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1, 3.12) on Sunday.
Maddon: Rule is upside down
For all the attention and humor inspired by former Cub Chris Coghlan’s somersault over Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for a run Tuesday night, Maddon seemed struck by the apparent reason behind the dangerous move.
“I think it’s the residue of the rule about blocking home plate, I really do,” said Maddon, a critic of the rule that requires the catcher to provide a lane to the plate for a runner when he doesn’t have the ball.
“He could have just run him over and probably internally somehow felt like he couldn’t and put himself at risk by landing on his head. I want to make that point.”
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