#Cubs Maddon is already thinking playoffs

It’s nearly mid June, and Joe Maddon is thinking about the playoffs and the Cubs manager is sending messages to the players so they realize what’s necessary to get to the postseason.

“When you’re playing with the ring in mind, you’re not necessarily just trying to develop guys,” Maddon said Friday. “When you have a group, which I believe we do, which is capable of more, you make adjustments or movement in the course of a game that tells the rest of the group, ‘I realize somebody is doing better and somebody is not doing so good.’ It’s about the group right now.”

One example, Maddon said, was his pulling closer Hector Rondon in the ninth after he served up a solo home run to Bryce Harper and then walked the next batter. Pedro Strop took over and picked up the save.

Another instance occurred Thursday when Maddon quickly pulled starter Tsuyoshi Wada after throwing 73 pitches over three plus innings.

“You’ve seen a couple items where you just don’t stand pat,” Maddon said. “You can’t just sit there and attempt not to do anything. Otherwise you do become [a .500 team].”

Maddon said the moves send a message.

“It sets the tone that it’s not about one person, it’s about the group,” he said.

Maddon said he’s always believed in the talent on the roster but the four-game sweep of the Mets May 11-15 made him feel the Cubs potentially had a playoff caliber team.

“We faced a lot of really good ptiching — that’s all [the Mets] have is really good pitching — and we won some close games and then did pretty well against Kansas City to follow and played some hard fought games,” Maddon said.

The Cubs split a rain-shortened series against the Royals, May 29-31.

“That’s the part I’m liking is that regardless of who we’re playing or where, we have that feeling in the dugout prior to the game — guys are ready, they’re ready to play,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat

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