How the Cubs are planning to keep Ian Happ fresh amid torrid start to season
David Ross felt a day off for Ian Happ served two important purposes.
First, it allowed him to recover a little more on the pitch he took to the left kneecap Saturday afternoon. Secondly, coming off the heels of shortened Spring Training, it allows Happ to rest and stay fresh as he looks to build off his torrid start where he’s 5-for-7 with 4 RBI and a pair of doubles.
“When he’s locked in, he’s one of the better bats to me in the league,” Ross said prior to Sunday’s game against the Brewers. “He’ll walk, he’s got power. He hits to all fields. He’s a pretty spectacular player. He gets out of rhythm at times like we all do.”
That’s the goal for Happ this season — to find more consistency at the plate.
Last season, he hit .183 with a .626 OPS in the first half of the season but turned it on in the second half of the year, slugging 16 homers and posting an .886 OPS. He’s built off that hot end of the season last year and has showcased an ability to be a spark plug for the Cubs’ offense early this season.
“He’s on a mission to be as consistent as possible this year and it’s been really consistent at-bats in the middle of our lineup,” Ross said. “It’s nice to be able to push some of those guys further down the lineup. It allows us to do that with the at-bats he’s given us so far.”
That’s what made Saturday’s hit by pitch a little more worrisome for Cubs’ fans. He went down in a heap of pain before eventually walking off on his own power. The pitch hit him squarely on the left kneecap and kept him down on the ground behind home plate long enough to cause concern that he could be out for an extended period of time.
Those concerns were minimized a touch after the game when his X-rays came back negative. Sunday morning, Happ informed Ross that he felt better and that he would be available if he needed him in a pinch hit or defensive substitution situation.
The Cubs are off Monday before heading to Pittsburgh for a 2-game series that begins on Tuesday.
“Two days off wouldn’t hurt anybody right now — none of these guys have been on their feet for 9 innings before the start of the season,” Ross said of his decision to rest him. “Just makes a lot of sense.”