Cubs comfortable with Candelario at cleanup

Maddon likes versatility of prospect, who was playing first base day after handling hot corner

Cubs comfortable with Candelario at cleanup

DENVER -- Turns out Jeimer Candelario's ticket to the big leagues to fill the 26th spot for the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Rockies was a one-way ticket. With the rosters back to 25 men, Candelario was in the Cubs' lineup for the second straight game Wednesday, hitting cleanup again, and this time filling in for first baseman Anthony Rizzo after manning the hot corner and pushing starting third baseman Kris Bryant to right field Tuesday. Candelario went 0-for-4 in Wednesday's 3-0 loss.

The Cubs kept Candelario and sent Dylan Floro down after Floro's extended relief appearance in the first game of the doubleheader, pitching 4 1/3 innings and allowing one run on six hits and no walks while striking out five in the 10-4 loss. Floro was called up from Triple-A Iowa Monday when Jason Heyward went on the disabled list with a sprained finger on his right hand.

Candelario was hitting .340 (33-for-97) at Iowa with 12 doubles, three triples, four homers and 22 RBIs in 28 games. He's ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Cubs' No. 4 prospect.

"He was playing that well in Triple-A," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's not an anomaly. We've seen him in Spring Training, we saw him last year. He can be a very, very good player. I'm very comfortable with him in the cleanup spot. Switch-hitter; his OPS is 1.000 on both sides, or better. He's off to a good start in the season, so why not?"

Maddon on Candelario's potential

Candelario had a five-game callup in July 2016 and went 1-for-11 (.091). His second trip to the big leagues started with a 1-for-4 showing Tuesday when he singled to open the second inning, sparking a five-run rally and walking with the bases loaded later in the same frame during an 8-1 win.

"In Triple-A I was playing first base and third base," Candelario said regarding his expectations of how the Cubs would use him. "I was taking some grounders in the outfield, and fly balls. Whatever it takes, whatever spot I'm going to be in, I'm going to be ready."

With Heyward on the DL, Candelario's presence gives the Cubs the chance to make the most of their versatility.

"We'll see what we pull out of our hat over the next couple days," Maddon said when asked if Candelario could be an everyday starter in Heyward's absence. "I'm not opposed."

Candelario also made an impressive fielding play in the fourth on Tuesday, sliding across the foul line to field a hard grounder by Dustin Garneau.

"[Candelario has] been calm," Maddon said. "Candy goes behind the bag, gets it cleanly, takes his time, and throws it chest-high. Draws a walk with the bases loaded, didn't expand the strike zone -- that's what I really like. Even beyond getting a hit there, to not expand your zone, I thought, was really impressive. [He's] playing with a nice controlled heartbeat."

Candelario's previous callup has helped keep him even-keeled this time around, and he credits his daily preparation for his strong spring in Iowa.

"You always have to have your routine and get your mind set, be aggressive, do the best that you can, and learn every day," Candelario said.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.