Maddon 'could not be happier' with Cubs

Maddon 'could not be happier' with Cubs

CHICAGO -- Although the Cubs finished April in first place in the National League Central with a 13-11 record, there have been a few grumblings around town about the team's "slow" start.

That assessment is fine with manager Joe Maddon, who acknowledges that the Cubs didn't play as well this April as they did in April 2016, when they sprinted out to a 17-5 mark.

"Every year has its own separate identity," Maddon said before Monday night's game with the Phillies. "I love where we're at right now based on [the fact that] we haven't played our baseball best yet.

"Our starting pitching hasn't been as good as it was last year, but it will be. Offensively, we're still not hitting on all cylinders, but we will be. And even defensively, even [Sunday] we made a couple of mistakes we normally don't make, and that's going to go away."

The schedule also has contributed to the slower start this season. Before Monday the Cubs had played just nine home games and were coming off a nine-game road trip.

For outfielder Jason Heyward, though, the biggest difference between the two Aprils is the quality of the opponents. Thus far this season they've faced the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Red Sox.

"No offense to any of those teams, but we started off last year on the road against the Diamondbacks and came here and played against some teams that were kind of uncertain," Heyward said. "The Brewers found themselves in the second half last season, and the Braves as well."

Those factors are why Maddon isn't concerned about a World Series hangover.

"I could not be happier with the group right now, with the way guys are going about their business," he said. "It's just going keep getting better."

John Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.