David Ross’ ‘luxury’ with the leadoff spot
When David Ross is filling his lineup out, he has an enviable situation when it comes to deciding who he writes in at the top of that day’s card.
That’s because the two players he’s likely to pencil in against right-handed pitchers have been red hot.
Since he came off the injured list on May 15, Ian Happ has a .448 on-base percentage with 4 home runs, 7 RBI and a 1.411 OPS. His other option, Joc Pederson, has posted a .433 on-base percentage with a .962 OPS in 14 games since he came off the injured list on May 3.
“I think it’s more of a luxury that I’ve got two guys that you can basically flip flop the two spots in the order in and you can get on-base, you can get slug,” Ross said. “If they’re swinging the bats well, it’s a good thing to have.”
And when he’s facing a left-handed starter, Ross has a pretty good leadoff hitter there, too. Willson Contreras has started 9 of the Cubs’ 14 games against lefty starters and the Cubs are an MLB-best 11-3 against south paw starters.
“That’s probably a little more the direction that I would go and have been going so far,” Ross said. “I think all that stuff will be just as guys are swinging the bats well moving guys around a little bit but still communicating that with them is a little ongoing process for the season whether it’s matchup or how they’re swinging the bat well.”
Pederson hit leadoff in the first two games in St. Louis and took the first pitch of the game on Friday for a home run. He doesn’t put a ton of stock into the leadoff spot, though.
“I kinda hit leadoff for the Dodgers for a good amount of my time there,” Pederson said after Friday night’s game. “It is what is. I think there’s not anything special to it.”
In Ross’ eyes, Pederson might be the prototypical, modern-day leadoff hitter.
“A true leadoff hitter like, first person that comes to mind, like a George Springer,” Ross said. “I think Joc fits that mold, a guy that can go deep, that can hit the ball to all fields and get on base.”
It’s been 608 days since the Cubs saw Saturday night’s Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas. That amount of time not seeing a pitcher presents a challenge to Cub hitters.
“I think that’s part of it, just not seeing a guy,” Ross said prior to Saturday night’s game. “The more you see a guy, the more you understand how he might pitch you and maybe what he’s trying to do.”
Mikolas will make his season debut Saturday night after starting the season on the injured list with a shoulder injury and missing the entire 2020 season with flexor tendon surgery. He was the ace for the Cardinals in 2018, going 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA in 32 starts. He finished 6th in the Cy Young voting, but couldn’t follow that up in 2019, going 9-14 with a 4.16 ERA.
To combat the unknown of facing Mikolas, Ross wants his hitters to keep to their approach.
“I think it’s one of those things you gotta stay and trust in what you do well and not try to think along with those types of pitchers cause you’re gonna get lost,” Ross said. “I think when guys start executing pitches that are tough to hit whether it’s a two-seamer in to a lefty front hip or just a really good changeup that you’re not seeing, try to adjust off that and stay into your strengths and not get caught into looking for what they’re executing, cause then it opens up other areas.”
The Cubs got some bad news when it came to injuries.
Jason Adam had surgery Friday night to repair a left ankle dislocation. Adam was with Triple-A Iowa after he was optioned on May 14. Adam injured his ankle prior to Friday’s Iowa Cubs game.
“I think he’s in good spirits,” Ross said. “We’re definitely thinking about him. That was some terrible news to receive yesterday.”
Alec Mills, who was placed on the 10-day IL with a lower back strain on May 16, will start Sunday’s Iowa Cubs game against the Omaha Stormchasers on a rehab assignment. Trevor Megill will throw a live bullpen session Sunday in Iowa, too. Megill was placed on the 10-day IL on April 30 with a right forearm strain.
Jason Heyward went through agility work Saturday in St. Louis as he looks to return from his hamstring strain and Marisnick is “still building in his progression.” Marisnick will likely need a rehab assignment before rejoining the big-league team. He’s been on the injured list since May 11 with a right hamstring strain.