Chicago Cubs

As the Cubs enter the 'full sprint,' even Joe Maddon's lineup juggling can't cure their road blues

All-Star shortstop Javier Baez arrived at Citizens Bank Park with a fever, forcing manager Joe Maddon to juggle his lineup, featuring the return of Rizzo to the leadoff spot, dropping Albert Almora Jr. from first to ninth and giving David Bote only his second major-league start at shortstop.

Maddon’s decision to revamp nearly the entire lineup after Baez was scratched reflects the search for a productive offense after scoring three runs in their previous two games — both losses.

This marked only the second time this season Rizzo batted leadoff, but he posted a .439 on-base percentage during a 27-game stretch in 2018 in that spot and reached base safely in seven consecutive at-bats to start a game in 2017.

The other obstacle the Cubs hope to conquer is a virus that has lingered for three weeks and affected six to seven players, Maddon said.

Maddon gave outfielder Jason Heyward an extra day to rest his sore left knee, although Heyward performed a series of running drills under the supervision of trainer PJ Mainville and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss without any noticeable discomfort before the game.

Maddon knows the he’ll need a healthy Heyward down the stretch in a tight National League Central race.

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