Maddon's OD lineup a tribute to World Series

Maddon's OD lineup a tribute to World Series

ST. LOUIS -- In January at the Cubs Convention, manager Joe Maddon made a faux lineup for Opening Day. But after thinking about it, he made a few changes for the start of the regular season on Sunday night. Cubs fans will recognize the names.

"It's a tribute to the World Series," Maddon said of his lineup for Game 1 of a three-game series against the Cardinals, a 4-3 Chicago loss. "Those are the guys who were on the field during the seventh game of the World Series, so I wanted as a tribute to them, what they did for us, put them on the field tonight. It's no more complicated than that."

The result was having Kyle Schwarber lead off, followed by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, Jon Lester and Javier Baez.

Baez shines in 2017 Classic

In Maddon's January lineup, Jon Jay was in center and Baez wasn't starting. At the time, Maddon wasn't sold on having the pitcher bat eighth in the lineup either.

"Having a chance to think about it a little more, I thought it was the right thing to do," Maddon said of Sunday's combination.

Last season, it was easier to get Baez starts at second base because Zobrist was playing left field while Schwarber rehabbed from his knee injury. With everyone healthy, Maddon said he'll look for the best matchups.

"You like to have Javy playing second base with anybody pitching," Maddon said. "We're going to try to fit everything in."

Worth noting

Hector Rondon served up four straight hits on Thursday against the Astros and was lifted before he retired a batter, but the reliever spent time in the bullpen on Friday working with pitching coach Chris Bosio and bullpen coach Lester Strode, and he feels he's back on track.

"I feel like last year and this year and in Spring Training, people got me," Rondon said. "I had to make adjustments. Right now, the season has started, and my mind is different, and hopefully, everything goes good. I'm feeling good. I know I struggled a little bit, but I'm the same guy."

• After winning the World Series, this season opener felt different than a year ago, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said.

"Last year we were very optimistic, too," Ricketts said. "It feels a little bit different and a little more relaxed."

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said they still are nervous heading into the season, but it's not a much as one year ago.

"When you win one, it takes the edge off in a good way," Epstein said. "You're still totally invested and you still really care, but it puts you in a good place mentally."

He wasn't concerned about the players being complacent.

"This group of guys needs no motivation," Epstein said. "They're totally connected, really selfless, hungry to win. We're lucky to have this group of guys. They want it bad."

• Epstein did not have any update regarding contract talks with pitcher Jake Arrieta, who is set to become a free agent after this season.

"All that stuff always happens behind closed doors," Epstein said. "If we do go through the season and he becomes a free agent, it doesn't mean he's not coming back. We're focused on team goals, as he is, and we'll see what happens."

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.