'Wonderful' for Chicago Cubs to have Heyward back
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said "it's going to be wonderful" to write Jason Heyward's name in the lineup again.
Heyward was activated from the disabled list Sunday after missing 15 games with right-hamstring tightness.
He was not in the starting lineup against Cincinnati but was available off the bench. That again will be the case Monday night in Arizona when the Cubs face left-handed pitcher Patrick Corbin.
The 29-year-old outfielder is batting .275 with 7 home runs and 52 RBI this season.
"I think you realize how important he's been by his absence," Maddon said. "He's had a great year. He's really ascended since last year and, again, I don't base everything on batting average.
"He's just a really good baseball player. He's been working good at-bats all year. He really provides that anchor among the group off and on the field, and his defense is among the best yet."
Heyward's best stretch at the plate this season was in late May and June after he returned from a concussion. Maddon anticipates similar production from Heyward following two weeks off.
"Perversely, sometimes these things actually work in your favor," Maddon said. "So he's rested. He went through that concussion issue earlier this year, came back the first game maybe not so sharp and then all of a sudden took off. So we'll see how it plays out."
Kris Bryant has not hit a home run since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 1, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Bryant is on the cusp.
"He's fouling his pitch off, the pitch that he can really drive," Maddon said. "He's just under it a little bit and it's going straight back. Otherwise, he's had some decent at-bats. … He's keeping two hands on the bat more consistently and he's just underneath (the ball) a little bit right at contact.
"You just have to square that up and spin it the right way. Overall, his bat speed looks good, his legs look good."
Since his return, the 2016 National League MVP is hitting .298 with (14-for-47) with 5 doubles and 3 RBI.
Bryant was not in the starting lineup Sunday, but he pinch hit with two outs in the seventh inning and lined a single to right field on the first pitch.
Tommy La Stella was penciled in as a starter Sunday but had to be scratched after experiencing lower-back tightness while loosening up.
"I saw him earlier and he was fine," manager Joe Maddon said before the game. "Then he tried to do something differently and felt his back a bit."
Albert Almora Jr. was added to the lineup in La Stella's absence, which was fitting since Sunday was Albert Almora Jr. bobblehead day at Wrigley Field.
"First of all, that was my mistake. I did not know it was Albert Almora bobblehead day until I walked in," Maddon said, grinning. "So in some weird way he's gotten into the lineup. So heads up. Bobbleheads up."
Almora went 1-for-2 and drove in the Cubs' only run with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly.
Sunday marked the third bobblehead day in Albert Almora's professional career, his first as a major-leaguer.
It was the first time Almora actually has been in the stadium on his bobblehead day.
"I had one in Boise and one at Kane County, I think, but I was never there for them," he said. "They had them the next year when I was already at the higher level."
Did it look like him?
"I think it does," he said. "A little bit."