DENVER – Cubs manager Joe Maddon gave leadoff man Kyle Schwarber the night off in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
On Wednesday, he gave first baseman Anthony Rizzo the day off, and used Schwarber in the No. 3 spot – even saying he briefly considered batting Rizzo leadoff to help the struggling Rizzo shake the slump.
A sign that Maddon is softening on Schwarber as his leadoff man, toying with other looks?
Not even close.
“As of right now I’m not ready to just give up on anything like that,” Maddon said. “And his struggles are not anywhere based on him hitting leadoff. He’s just struggling.”
As the season approaches the quarter mark, Schwarber leads the Cubs with 42 strikeouts. By the time he was hitless into Wednesday’s late innings, his season average dropped below .200. Even with his 21 walks, his on-base percentage hovers just above .300.
And his numbers are worse against left-handers.
“It’s not about Schwarber hitting leadoff. He’s just not hitting like Schwarber yet, that’s all,” Maddon said. “Once he starts hitting, which he will, that number’s going to get so pretty.”
The Schwarber question has been batted around since Dexter Fowler departed for St. Louis as a free agent in the offseason. Maddon reiterated Wednesday his other good leadoff candidate is Ben Zobrist – the veteran switch-hitter, who also offers what he considers his best protection for No. 3-hitting Rizzo in the cleanup spot. Among other things, he risks stacking left-handers in the middle if he puts Zobrist at the top.
“It just feels good this way,” he said.