Maddon: Avila to start based on opposing pitcher

Manager impressed with newly acquired catcher's first game with Cubs

Maddon: Avila to start based on opposing pitcher

CHICAGO -- Alex Avila was impressive in his Cubs debut working with Jake Arrieta, and manager Joe Maddon said Thursday he will likely start the veteran catcher based more on the opposing-starter matchup, not necessarily pairing him with a specific pitcher.

Avila started his first game on Wednesday and guided Arrieta through five scoreless and efficient innings against the D-backs. Arrieta ultimately gave up two runs (one earned) over seven innings in the 3-0 loss. Willson Contreras will continue to get the majority of the starts behind the dish.

"I think I'm going to go based on who's starting on the other side," Maddon said of how he'll use the left-handed-hitting Avila vs. the right-handed-hitting Contreras. "[I'll also consider] day game after night game, how many games in a row Willson has played. It showed last night that [Avila] can catch anybody. That's what I saw."

Arrieta's strong start

Avila and Arrieta had talked for about half an hour on Tuesday, then again prior to Wednesday's start, plus coach Mike Borzello presented the catcher with a detailed game plan.

Contreras will continue to be matched with Jon Lester, Maddon said.

"I thought [Avila] was really, really good," Maddon said. "He was calm. He received the ball well. He blocked the ball well. I felt very good about it."

Worth noting
• Left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, who was acquired from the Tigers along with Avila on Monday, also made his Cubs debut on Wednesday. It didn't go as well for the southpaw, who gave up one run on one hit and two walks while striking out one over one inning.

Wilson strikes out Goldschmidt

"I was just over-amped up a little bit," Wilson said Thursday. "I need to slow down. It got better as it went along. I'm glad the first one is over with. Everything else is good. Now it's just, 'Pitch better.'"

• The Cubs are the first defending World Series champions to be in first place on Aug. 1 since the 2011 Giants began that month with a two-game lead in the National League West. The Cubs also are the first defending champs with more than a two-game lead in their division since the '09 Phillies had a six-game lead in the NL East.

Kris Bryant was named the winner of the Cubs' Heart and Hustle Award by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Bryant donated his 2015 Players Choice Award grant to the Wounded Warrior Project, and he has hosted or participated in charitable poker tournaments, golf tournaments and a cook-off with Cubs teammates. The MLBPAA announces a winner for each team and gives the award to someone who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.

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.