Maddon prepared for bullpen chess match

Maddon prepared for bullpen chess match

CHICAGO -- In the Orioles-Blue Jays American League Wild Card Game, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter opted to not use his closer, Zach Britton. Indians manager Terry Francona called on Cody Allen for 1 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox.

What would Cubs manager Joe Maddon do? He didn't want to comment on another manager's moves, but did say the Wild Card situation is different.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 CHC 1, SF 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 8 CHC 5, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 SF 6, CHC, 5 (13) video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 CHC 6, SF 5 video
"That's Game 7," he said of the Wild Card Games. "There's no set way of doing things."

How he'll use his bullpen is Maddon's primary focus every game.

"That's the one thing I think about more than anything on a daily basis is the bullpen and who's well, who's not, how long can you use them," Maddon said. "For me, as a Major League manager, setting the lineup is one thing, and that's relatively benign. The bigger thing daily is understanding your bullpen and knowing what you can do."

The Cubs' bullpen did have the fewest innings pitched in the National League this season (470 2/3). Maddon admitted the club isn't sure about Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, two relievers who missed time in August because of injuries.

"I can't emphasize enough, I don't know what Ronnie and Strop will look like," Maddon said. "They haven't been pitching a lot lately. We just have to throw them out there and make your best assessment. My assumption is that they'll all be very good when they go out there."

Maddon on facing the Giants

Wild Card mojo?

The Blue Jays won the AL Wild Card Game, then beat the Rangers on Thursday and Friday in Texas to take a 2-0 lead in the ALDS. Maddon knows how winning that winner-take-all game can give a team confidence. It happened to the Cubs last postseason after they beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game, as they went on to defeat the Cardinals in four games in the NLDS.

Will the Giants have similar momentum after winning the NL Wild Card Game?

"You don't know how the group will react to that," Maddon said. "[The Giants] are throwing several different guys out there today based on our left-handed pitcher [Jon Lester], so here's a bunch of guys who have not been playing regularly for them and didn't feel that game as much as the other guys felt that game.

"I think we've done a nice job of keeping our guys ready. I think our guys reacted to this week as well as they possibly could. I'm confident in our guys, I trust our guys. ... For me, the goal was to win the division, and the spoils of that was having a couple days off. [The Giants] had to go through the moment of having to win that game. It's impossible to predict. You just have to go play."

Hendricks on keys to postseason

Contreras will get a start

Willson Contreras will get a start during the NLDS, but Maddon wasn't sure which pitcher the rookie would catch. Contreras has caught both Game 2 starter Kyle Hendricks and Game 3 starter Jake Arrieta, but so has veteran Miguel Montero.

David Ross caught Lester in Game 1.

"Willson is going to play. I have no hesitation with that at all," Maddon said.

Hendricks said it took some time to develop a rapport with Contreras.

"It was amazing with Willson, really, by my third or fourth start we were really clicking on the same page and had the same game plan going," Hendricks said. "He knew what I wanted to throw and when. I feel like we have a really good rapport, body-language wise, kind of knowing what to feel from each other and when."

Worth noting

• Among the pregame guests on Friday were Hall of Famer Billy Williams, former Bears football coach Mike Ditka, and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder.

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.