Ian Happ, Tony Kemp and the Cubs second base picture


Ian Happ's playing time has been more Jekyll and Hyde than the Cubs offense.

After being recalled from Triple-A Iowa, Happ started every big-league game he was around for in July but is still waiting for his first August start.

Happ has been the Cubs position player affected most by the trade deadline additions of Nick Castellanos and Tony Kemp, coming off the bench in six straight games after starting his first five contests on the last road trip. With the division race so tight, the Cubs aren't focused on production over potential and manager Joe Maddon said last week the time for development has come and gone this season. 

Happ hasn't seen any time at second base, working exclusive as an outfielder over the last two weeks. Yet Maddon and the Cubs insist the 24-year-old is still in the second-base picture moving forward.

"He and I have already talked about that," Maddon said Monday. "Happer's very adament that he feels comfortable at second base, so we're not afraid of that, either."

Maddon likes utilizing Happ as part of the Cubs' top defensive outfield late in games when they get a lead, moving him to left with Albert Almora Jr. in center field and Jason Heyward in right. 

But Happ continues to get his work out at second base and played 20 games there for Triple-A Iowa earlier this season. In spring training — before he was sent down to the minors — Happ was determined to be a part of the equation at second base for the Cubs, even texting Maddon over the winter.

However, at the moment, it's been Kemp and David Bote who have been splitting time at second base — a key defensive spot on the diamond for a team that has struggled to find consistency in that aspect all season.

Even in a part-time role, Happ has been contributing, with a game-winning homer Monday night and a single through the shift Sunday afternoon.

For his part, he's just happy to be here again after more than three months in the minors.

"It's great to be back with this group and just to be a part of it, to be able to help any way I can," Happ said. "This atmosphere, getting back to it, the difference is, down [in the minors], you're not playing in front of 40,000 people. You're not in the middle of a pennant race that matters, that is something that people care about.

"To get back to that, to get back to being a part of an organization that expects to be in the playoffs every year and expects to be competing for a championship, I missed that. That atmosphere is what we've been doing since I've been here for three years now and there's nothing better."

Beyond defense, the Cubs like Kemp over Happ at second base because of the former Astro's supreme contact ability. He's also turned heads already with his energy and enthusiasm, including a backflip on the field before each game.

"My brother always told a story about me being dressed in uniform at 7am for a 1pm game when I was little," Kemp said. "I've always loved the game and loved competing and I love watching people have success in the game. This game can beat you up — it's really hard mentally and physically — but if you can surpass that, you'll have fun in this game.

"Sometimes, you forget. Sometimes, you get to this level and people treat it like a job. But you have to keep going out there, having fun and having that little kid in you."

So how does the 27-year-old keep that little kid alive and well inside as he goes out and plays in the big leagues?

"You just have to go out there with a positive attitude every day," Kemp said. "Some days are harder than others. Some days are easier than others and that's just how it is. There's a lot of peaks and valleys, but if you can just remember why you started playing the game, then I think that's when that energy really comes out.

"It's just natural. It's just how I am. It's easy being around guys like this, because these are some of the best guys in the business to do it. Being a small part of it is fun and we're gonna have a fun run these next couple months."

Contact Us