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Joe Maddon Managing Around Lineup Challenges

By Chris Emma--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In leading the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon keeps it unconventional. He's never afraid to be creative.

Maddon will need to improvise during the stretch run of this season, as his Cubs continue to battle injuries. Jorge Soler remains sidelined with a left oblique strain, and now Kyle Schwarber will sit at least three to five days to rest a mild rib strain.

As a result, Maddon will have to mix it up in the lineup.

"This is different for a lot of our guys," Maddon said. "We're here in September and have a really solid chance at going to the playoffs. It's not about anybody right now, it's about the Cubs. That's what guys have to get used to."

The Cubs will have All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant play right field when needed, spelling for the injured Soler. With Schwarber out, Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia will platoon in left field. Meanwhile, the decision to acquire Austin Jackson for depth was tested immediately with Schwarber's injury, making the career center fielder important in left field and right field.

However, there are even more questions in the infield. The call-up of Javier Baez complicates how the lineup will be set. Maddon likes to play the matchups each day but is more comfortable with Tommy La Stella starting against right-handed pitchers and Starlin Castro against left-handers. It's possible that Coghlan could play second, too, and Baez will get chances at second, shortstop and third base.

"We want to be able to move some things around," Maddon said. "The depth chart, it's kind of like all these guys, their faces are on second base. It's just about trying to pick the best matchup for that pitcher, that night."

Additionally, the Cubs are considering calling up a third catcher, a move possible with the 40-man September rosters. Yet, the hope is for Schwarber to rejoin the lineup in St. Louis. Schwarber said he doesn't feel pain in his rib but understands the precautionary measures being taken.

The Cubs enter Friday's game against the Diamondbacks with a 75-57 record and steady seven-game lead over the Giants for the second NL wild-card spot. To reach that one-game playoff, likely with Pittsburgh, Maddon must manage his team through a series of injuries and challenges.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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