Cubs teammate gives up his spot for hot Bote

ByJesse Rogers ESPN logo
Sunday, April 28, 2019

PHOENIX -- Chicago Cubs third baseman David Bote wasn't supposed to be in the starting lineup Sunday. But that was before manager Joe Maddon got a nudge to give the nod to the hot hitter.

"The process worked well," Maddon said. "I had him [Bote] listed to not play, but he's had a couple good games, and in discussion with a couple of veteran guys, they agreed."

While Maddon was coy as to which veteran came to him with the idea, one who had to give his blessing was Ben Zobrist, who had the day off Saturday and was slated to start Sunday.

"It's a selfless kind of a move," Maddon said. "That's what we're looking for. I like the fact they feel comfortable enough to come in here and discuss with me. It was pretty much what we wanted to happen to begin with, and it happened."

The idea to tell the players when they will play before each series begins came from the players themselves. They like knowing that a good or bad performance won't affect their playing time the next day. But that means potentially ignoring the hot hand, such as Bote, who had two long home runs in the Cubs' 9-1 win over Arizona on Saturday. Maddon has always said that it isn't a set-in-stone strategy, but it does require communication if he varies from his predetermined lineup.

"You guys wanted three days, I'm giving you three," Maddon said, recalling how the policy came about. "And something like this may pop [up] once in a while. We had a nice discussion, and we concluded it was the right way to go."

Bote's two home runs totaled 886 feet and helped Maddon to his 400th win as Cubs manager. He's the fastest to 400 wins with a team since Joe Torre's New York Yankees of the late '90s. This year has been particularly different, beginning with the lineup strategy outlined above. Maddon has been more hands-on while trying different things to connect with the millennials he manages.

"I feel like I'm back in the minor leagues," he said. "I mean that with the utmost respect. It's like the developmental process. You're back in the lab and trying new things. You're creating. It's fun."