Feeling 'like Opening Day,' Fowler flourishes

Back from DL, Cubs CF opens game with HR and finishes triple shy of cycle

Feeling 'like Opening Day,' Fowler flourishes

MILWAUKEE -- When Dexter Fowler checked in with Joe Maddon in his office Friday, the Cubs manager greeted him with, "You go, we go." That's the saying Maddon would give Fowler before each at-bat, and he has not used it since the outfielder has been on the disabled list. On Friday, Fowler was activated, Maddon sent him to the plate with his message, and the result was a leadoff home run.

Fowler returned with a bang, going 3-for-4 with a walk and scored two runs in the Cubs' 5-2 victory over the Brewers. He smacked a 3-1 pitch from the Brewers' Jimmy Nelson to straightaway center for his 18th career leadoff homer and fourth this season in the first, and hit a two-run double in the second.

"It feels like Opening Day," said Fowler, who finished a triple shy of the cycle. "It feels good to get back on the field and get back with these guys."

Sidelined since June 19 with a right hamstring strain, Fowler went 1-for-5 with a double, a walk, and scored two runs on Wednesday when he played both games of a doubleheader with Triple-A Iowa in Des Moines. He started in center field in the first game and went 0-for-3, striking out twice, and was the designated hitter in the second game.

Fowler's two-run double

"It's a wonderful evening for him, and it's really apparent how important he is to us," Maddon said. "I was watching him in center field between innings and he's laughing with [shortstop Addison Russell] and with Jason [Heyward] out in right field, and it just looked right."

Fowler was missed. When he led off, the Cubs were 43-18, and they went 11-17 without him. He was batting .290, and ranked among the National League leaders in on-base percentage before he injured his hamstring.

"I have to try to pick it back up where I was and go from there," Fowler said.

He did just that Friday.

"I was just happy to be back around the boys, I was happy to see everybody," Fowler said after the game. "It's like coming back home."

Fowler on big game in return

Maddon did tell Fowler to keep him abreast of how his legs feel.

"I said, 'Even during the course of the game, talk to me. Let me know how you're feeling,'" said Maddon, who may remove Fowler early to avoid aggravating the hamstring.

Said Chicago pitcher Jason Hammel of Fowler: "It was nice to see him run around out there."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.