Happ, La Stella in limbo with Hey­ward on his way

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - BY GOR­DON WITTENMYER Staff Re­porter

Af­ter an­other big day at the plate by rookie Ian Happ, Cubs man­ager Joe Mad­don knows how tough it’s go­ing to be to make a ros­ter de­ci­sion, which could come Fri­day.

“Is it tough or easy?” Mad­don said.

It might be es­pe­cially tough if you’re in­fielder Tommy La Stella. Happ has impressed through five games in the ma­jors. He went 2- for- 4 in the cleanup spot Thurs­day, which in­cluded a dou­ble and a walk in the 9- 5 win over the Reds.

Right fielder Jason Hey­ward ( jammed fin­ger) be­gan a mi­nor­league re­hab as­sign­ment Thurs­day at Class A South Bend that could last one game and lead to his ac­ti­va­tion Satur­day.

The cor­re­spond­ing move could come down to Happ or La Stella (. 318 av­er­age, .483 on- base per­cent­age) be­ing op­tioned to Class AAA Iowa.

Mad­don sug­gested it wouldn’t in­volve send­ing out a pitcher and tak­ing his bullpen back down to a seven- man staff.

“Of course, Ian is ob­vi­ously look­ing like he does not want to go any­where,” said Mad­don, who started the in­field­er­out­fielder in left field Thurs­day af­ter two starts each in right and cen­ter in his first four games.

Happ is 6- for- 17 with two dou­bles, two homers and five walks in five games.

“He’s been a lit­tle bit of a spark plug for us,” said vet­eran Jon Lester ( 2- 2), who pitched into the sev­enth to help the Cubs push their record to two games over .500 for the first time in nearly two weeks.

“Ver­sa­til­ity’s a big part of my game,” Happ said. “I’m just stay­ing in the present mo­ment. I’m hav­ing a blast ev­ery day. How could you not? It’s just so much fun to be a part of this.”

Happy to see red

The Cubs’ first se­ries sweep of the sea­son pushed their home record over .500 to 10- 9, and they scored 25 runs in the three games — al­beit against a pitch­ing- chal­lenged Reds team they’ve beaten in 20 of the last 25 meet­ings ( five of six this year).

They’re 16- 18 against ev­ery­one else.

“It’s a nice first step. I’m not go­ing to go crazy over it,” Mad­don said. “We’re still not there yet. We’re get­ting bet­ter. I’m not here to pro­claim ev­ery­thing’s well and solved, but we’re get­ting bet­ter.”

Ro­ta­tion start­ing to roll

Over the last eight starts, the Cubs’ ro­ta­tion is 5- 3 with a 3.17 ERA, five qual­ity starts and six in­nings per start.

In the 32 games un­til then, the ro­ta­tion was 10- 9 with a 4.81 ERA, 10 qual­ity starts and a 5⅓- in­ning av­er­age.

“I’ll say it again: Start­ing pitch­ing drives the en­gine,” Mad­don said. “I love the way the start­ing pitch­ing is trend­ing right now.”

| JONATHAN DANIEL/ GETTY IM­AGES

Cubs rookie Ian Happ, who went 2- for- 4 in the cleanup spot Thurs­day against the Reds, con­tin­ues to im­press.

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