Cubs follow Fowler as leadoff hitter sparks offense

'He's the catalyst,' Maddon says after 3-hit, 3-run night

Cubs follow Fowler as leadoff hitter sparks offense

ANAHEIM -- Before Dexter Fowler led off the Cubs' season opener, manager Joe Maddon gave the outfielder the same message that he did before each at-bat last year: "You go, we go."

It worked again.

Fowler doubled to lead off the game, and collected two more singles and a walk, scoring three runs in the Cubs' 9-0 victory over the Angels on Monday night.

"You've got to be begin with Dexter," Maddon said. "He set the tone again."

Fowler was close to playing elsewhere this season. The Cubs made him a qualifying offer last November, but he rejected it. It wasn't until late in February that rumors circulated about him possibly signing with the Orioles, but instead, Fowler showed up at the Cubs complex on Feb. 25 after signing a new one-year deal.

Is Fowler on a mission after his offseason?

"Always," Fowler said. "What happened last year, it ended quicker than we wanted. Coming back here, we definitely have something to prove."

The Cubs came up short last season, reaching the National League Championship Series, only to get swept by the Mets. What about a personal mission?

"I'm always on a personal mission," Fowler said.

"He brings a lot of energy," Maddon said of his leadoff man. "He interacts with everybody so well. The guys like him. He's a very likable guy and a good leadoff hitter. He's the catalyst, there's no question about that. Imagine the lineup without him tonight."

And Maddon continued to pump Fowler up with his message.

"He still says that -- 'You go, we go,'" Fowler said. "Every [at-bat]."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.