Cubs left fielder Ian Happ didn’t sugar coat his self-evaluation over the weekend in Pittsburgh.
“It comes and goes,” he said when asked if he’s been locked in at the plate lately. “I’ve had some good at-bats, I’ve hit some balls hard right at people – there’s been a lot of that. A little bit frustrating. I’m not getting on base as much as I want in the last few weeks. Been walking a lot before that, so that’s normalized a little bit.”
In four games in Pittsburgh, however, he went 5-for-16 (.313) with two doubles, a home run and five RBI.
Then, he hit a solo home run in his first at-bat against the Brewers on Monday.
“Just having better at-bats, feeling better controlling the strike zone a little bit,” Happ said. “And it’s a good starting point.”
Happ has been able to settle in with the consistency of batting third every game. And manager David Ross’ lineup decisions reveal something about his approach to player management.
Ross has leveraged rest days to help players including Christopher Morel and Seiya Suzuki out of ruts. But Happ hasn’t looked as lost at the plate as Suzuki did when Ross put him in a temporary platoon earlier this month. Suzuki has been on a hot streak since reclaiming his everyday role.
Ross also knows how much Happ, a former utility player, values consistency in his position and spot in the batting order. Happ leads the team in games, making his 128th appearance on Monday against the Brewers. So, even though Happ entered Monday batting .241, Ross has penciled his name into the three-hole 103 times.
“He’s as consistent of an at-bat as I think we have on our team,” Ross said. “And I mean that in a fact of, when he’s scuffling, when he’s going well, when he’s hitting for power, when he’s getting on base, you don’t see a change in the consistent consistency in the at-bat.”
Ross also spoke highly of Happ’s veteran presence and ability to get on base in front of Cody Bellinger, the Cubs’ best hitter this season. Bellinger entered Monday with 53 RBI in his last 50 games.
Ross pointed out that the Cubs have scored the most runs in MLB since the All-Star break (252 entering Monday).
“There’s a lot of things that you can look at from a lineup standpoint,” Ross said. “But since we’ve been going well, Ian’s been in the three hole. … Why would I mess with that?”
Starter Marcus Stroman was in Chicago on Monday for further medical evaluation. He’s been at his home in Tampa recovering from a fracture in his rib cartilage. He was diagnosed with the injury two weeks ago, days before he was set to return from the 15-day IL (right hip inflammation).
The Cubs want Stroman to be symptom free before he resumes baseball activities.
Cubs left-hander Brandon Hughes threw a live batting practice session at the Cubs’ spring training complex in Arizona on Monday, representing the next step in his throwing progression.
Hughes underwent a surgical debridement on his left knee in late June, a cleanup procedure that was much less serious than the knee surgery originally planned for the reliever.