Cubs manager Joe Maddon made a confession Sunday regarding rookie Ian Happ’s defensive ability.
"Honestly, from spring training, seeing him at second base, I did not think it was going to work," Maddon fessed up. " I’ll be the first one to tell you that. He’s proven me absolutely wrong. He’s done a very nice job. If you really work it all the way through the next couple years, he could be pretty good at second base. That’s what I’m seeing."
"Whereas in spring training, I thought he was technically bad. I thought his hands were hard, his glove was good. His hands have softened up, his feet have gotten better. He definitely can turn a double play because he can throw."
The Cubs are covered at second with Javier Baez and the return of Ben Zobrist, while Happ is thriving under Maddon’s preference for versatility. He made his 19th start in center field Sunday and has started 11 games at second, five in right field and four in left.
"He can play anywhere out there," Maddon said. "I’d be curious to see him at third and first. Third base is a curious spot for him, based on his tools."
Sooner than later: Catcher Victor Caratini admitted he reached the majors sooner than he thought he would.
When the Cubs designated Miguel Montero for assignment Wednesday, Caratini, 23, was a natural short-term fit based on his work with the starting pitchers in spring training with the help of starting catcher Willson Contreras, Montero and several instructors.
Caratini’s versatility was stretched Thursday when he played the outfield for the first time in his career in the ninth inning as the Cubs protected a 5-4 win over the Nationals.
"It caught me by surprise," said Caratini, who borrowed Kris Bryant’s outfielder’s glove. "The main thing is catching, but whatever Joe needs to help the team win, I’m ready.
Extra innings: Jon Lester’s next start was moved up to Tuesday against the Rays so he will get another start Sunday against the Pirates before the All-Star break. … Baseball America and MLB.com reported that the Cubs agreed to terms with shortstop Luis Verdugo and pitcher Florencio Serrano from Mexico.