American Legion week allows Cubs to rest up

Coming off West Coast trip, players will arrive for games later than usual

American Legion week allows Cubs to rest up

PHOENIX -- Jason Heyward may take a couple of afternoon naps this week. Kris Bryant expects to sleep a little later in the morning. Welcome to American Legion week for the Cubs.

Manager Joe Maddon started the week-long event when he was with the Rays, and it harkens back to the days when players were kids and would just show up at the ballpark and play. It's also a way to counter the dog days of August. The Cubs will treat an American Legion post in the Chicago area to beer and sausages.

"The whole point is you don't have to be there all day to play Major League Baseball games successfully, especially this time of year when guys are a little bit tired," Maddon said Sunday. "They're coming off a West Coast trip -- it's a perfect time."

The Cubs open a seven-game homestand Monday with the start of a four-game series against the Reds followed by a three-game Interleague series against the Blue Jays.

"I'll sleep a little later," Bryant said. "It's good to get rest, it's good to relax and not think about baseball. You can spend a couple more hours at home, and I think that's good for us."

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Heyward said players can take the same mindset at home that they do on the road.

"I might go work out or something like that, and then chill and take a nap or whatever," Heyward said. "At this time of year, you're used to doing whatever you need to do. You can do as little as you need."

Maddon knows there are some critics who might feel the players need more work, especially after defensive lapses or struggles at the plate.

"They can't swing any more than they do, they can't take any more ground balls than they do," Maddon said. "That's where I disagree with a lot of folks. [The players] have been working since February.

"We do so many inappropriate things under the heading of practice or work. It can be so counter-intuitive or non-productive. I prefer rested, I prefer conversation, I prefer work -- but work smart."

Pitchers are set in their routines, and Kyle Hendricks said he may not change his pregame drill, especially since he is still trying to get back in a groove after being on the disabled list.

"Pitchers are on their own programs," Hendricks said. "For me, after missing time, I come in and get my throwing in and do my work."

Ben Zobrist was not happy about a called third strike that ended Saturday night's 6-2 loss to the D-backs and let home-plate umpire Mark Wegner know. Maddon also talked to Wegner as he was coming off the field.

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"That's exasperating," Maddon said of the call. "There's not a thing you can do. The game is over. ... I just don't understand why it was called a strike."

Maddon is in favor of an electronic strike zone to help the umpires, although he knows they may not support that concept.

"[Saturday] night definitely screams for a challenge -- challenging the pitch," Maddon said. "Maybe you get to challenge a couple pitches in a game.

"For the most part, these guys are right. However, the whole point is I've learned how much I like [replay] on the bases. I think I would prefer it at the plate, also."

• Maddon expected to get an update on shortstop Addison Russell on Monday when the Cubs return home. Russell stayed in Chicago to rehab a right foot strain. He's been sidelined since Aug. 3.

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.