Maddon opts for righty-heavy lineup vs. Gio

Skipper touts bench coach as candidate for managerial openings, talks Edwards, young core's growth

Maddon opts for righty-heavy lineup vs. Gio

WASHINGTON -- Jason Heyward was not in the Cubs' starting lineup Saturday for Game 2 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. At this time of year, that doesn't mean a day off. The Cubs players know manager Joe Maddon could call on them to do anything at any time.

"I feel that's unique," Heyward said Saturday. "I don't know -- [it's a] cool, awesome feeling that we all have knowing that any of us, any moment, could be used in the game if we're not in the game.

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"Naturally, we're going to stay in tune to the game. It's the playoffs and we don't have another team to focus on. But when you know that any moment, you could say, 'Hey, you're going to go pinch-hit, go run, go hit,' and for me, of course, 'Go play defense. It just makes it fun. You're waiting for those moments to help the team out, and when you get a chance to do it, I feel it keeps us ready."

Maddon opted to go with a right-handed-heavy lineup against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, starting Albert Almora Jr. in the outfield while Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, both left-handed batters, sat.

As far as Maddon was concerned, Friday was Game 163, not the start of the postseason for the Cubs.

"Listen, we understand the importance of it," Maddon said. "We understand where we're at, we get it. But you can't treat it as anything but Game 163. You have to keep your mind that slow. You have to keep your thought process that slow. You have to understand that, you know, we may not do so well in the beginning but our pitcher is pretty darned good himself and that's the key to the whole thing. You only win a game like that because you pitched better than really good pitching."

Maddon on bunting, Lester

Martinez for manager
• As much as Maddon would hate to lose Dave Martinez from his staff, the Cubs manager said he'd like to see his bench coach be considered for some of the managerial openings. As of now, the Tigers, Mets and Phillies are looking for managers.

"He belongs in the group," Maddon said of Martinez. "I know all the people who are being considered and I promise, our guy matches up with every one of them. It's baffling to me a bit why [he's not mentioned].

"[Martinez] has been on a lot of winning teams and just look at him as a player," Maddon said. "That's what drew me to him in the beginning with the Rays. I'd never been with him as a teammate, but I'd watched him play. He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player. He's bilingual -- all that matters. And he's not afraid to have tough conversations. I think a lot of times people in that position might shy away from that. ... I see all the [candidates'] names and I like all of these dudes, but to not put his name in there baffles me."

Edwards maturing
Carl Edwards Jr. was the first reliever Maddon called on Friday. The right-hander has come a long way. Last season, he totaled 36 innings in 36 games, but this year, he led the Cubs' relievers in innings pitched with 66 1/3 innings over 73 games.

Edwards Jr. hurls perfect 8th

"Based on what he did last year and what he's done this year, he'll keep growing," Maddon said of Edwards. "I tell him all the time, 'Just breathe, and you can get anybody out.' His stuff is that good."

Fountain of youth
• Speaking of the young Cubs, Maddon took a moment during Friday's game to look at the starting nine and was reminded about their bright future.

"These guys are going to keep getting better because they're humble people and they don't take anything for granted and they're good," Maddon said. "I think you'll see continual rise from a lot of people. [Kris Bryant], Anthony Rizzo, definitely Willson [Contreras], Javy [Baez]. ... Even our old guys are young, to quote Yogi [Berra]."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.