How Cubs' lineup has evolved since Opening Day

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Rookie Addison Russell has moved over from second base to replace the benched Starlin Castro at shortstop for the Cubs.

    Rookie Addison Russell has moved over from second base to replace the benched Starlin Castro at shortstop for the Cubs. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/10/2015 8:43 PM

Quick, can you remember the Cubs' opening-day starting lineup?

Back on Easter Sunday, when the game-time temperature was a chilly 44 degrees that night at Wrigley Field, manager Joe Maddon trotted out this starting nine for his Chicago debut against the St. Louis Cardinals:

 

Dexter Fowler, CF

Jorge Soler, RF

Anthony Rizzo, 1B

Starlin Castro, SS

Chris Coghlan, LF

Mike Olt, 3B

David Ross, C

Jon Lester, P

Tommy La Stella, 2B

Later in that game, a 3-0 Cardinals victory, Miguel Montero replaced Ross behind the plate, and Arismendy Alcantara took over for La Stella at second base

Things have changed a bit. As the old saying goes, the 25-man roster a team breaks spring-training camp with doesn't stay the same for very long.

La Stella has been on the disabled list since April 9, and Alcantara went to Class AAA Iowa on April 21.

Olt got hurt in April, opening the door for Kris Bryant. Soler doesn't bat second anymore, and Castro hasn't batted anywhere lately, let alone cleanup, after he was benched last week.

Travis Wood was in the starting rotation, and Edwin Jackson was in the bullpen. Now Wood is in the bullpen and pitching well, and Jackson is gone.

I've always found it fascinating to watch a team's roster evolve over the course of a season, especially during a push for the playoffs.

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For the Cubs, three-quarters of their infield is different from what it was on Opening Day. Bryant is at third base, Addison Russell is at shortstop (having moved over from second base) and Coghlan has played second of late to make room for catcher Kyle Schwarber in left.

Although many of the team's bullpen pitchers are still around, their roles seem to change every day.

"There's an evolution, but there's been a lot of consistency from within the group, also," Maddon said. "A lot of the same guys are out there for the most part. I think really good teams do evolve during the course of the season.

"You're going to be surprised by some performances that are better sometimes or surprised by performances in a lesser way, too."

Before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline, the Cubs added a starting pitcher in Dan Haren and a reliever in Tommy Hunter.

"I'm always looking for teams to get better by August than you were in April," Maddon said. "You're always looking for that. And that's my minor-league training. When you start managing in the low A-ball stuff, the biggest thing you want to see there is players getting better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We've been developing at the major-league level this whole summer, and you're seeing guys get better. So that's a good thing. That's a real tribute to the players themselves along with the coaching staff. They've done a great job with these guys. I think we're definitely trending in the right direction."

This club reminds me a little bit of the 2007 club as far as roster and position evolution goes. On manager Lou Piniella's first Opening Day, Alfonso Soriano started in center field, Matt Murton played left, Michael Barrett was the catcher and Cesar Izturis played shortstop.

Center field was no place for Soriano, so he moved to left, costing playing time for Murton, who spent some time in the minor leagues that season. Chicago ended up being no place for Barrett and Izturis as Piniella had his fill of both and the front office traded them.

After a slow start to the 2007 season, the Cubs wound up winning the National League Central, largely because of that roster evolution, and Soriano having a monster September.

This year's team has been a respectable lot, with one game under .500 being its low-water mark.

But Maddon and the front office have tweaked and adjusted, sometimes because of injury and sometimes because of underperformance.

If this team does make it to the playoffs, there probably won't be any one magical turning point. It'll just be the natural order of things.

• Follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

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