Chicago Cubs starting lineup for home opener reveals telling sign on DH role

Craig Counsell is already making genius decisions with the lineup construction and we're only four games into the year.

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Craig Counsell has opened the season with some decisions that are refreshing to see, but none of them have been a better sight than what he’s been doing with the designated hitter role, especially for today’s home opener.

Today, the Chicago Cubs will be playing their fourth game of the season and Counsell has implemented a lineup that has had four different designated hitters. 

In the opening day lineup, we saw what most fans would have expected: the defensively limited, but offensively explosive Christopher Morel in that role. 

In the second game, Counsell wanted an additional right-handed bat in the lineup against a left-handed starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers so he chose to incorporate Garrett Cooper as the DH. 

Yesterday, he used the switch-hitting leadoff man Ian Happ as the DH and today it will be Seiya Suzuki taking a day off from the field and focusing on his performance at the plate.

There are a couple of reasons to like this strategy but let’s focus on today first. 

After a blistering spring, Seiya Suzuki has only three hits in his first 15 at-bats of the season and he’s yet to draw a walk. 

By taking him out of the outfield and allowing him to solely focus on his plate appearances today there’s a chance that Counsell can supercharge Suzuki and get him back on the trajectory he had at the end of last season.

That being said, there’s nuance to this as well. 

Watching the first three games, it would be easy to wonder if Cody Bellinger could get a pseudo day off by taking over at first base and letting Michael Busch DH. 

That would be a mistake, and it’s not one Counsell intends to make. 

Busch mashed in AAA with the Dodgers but his mental makeup and confidence may have taken a hit when he came to the majors and struggled. If Counsell were to take him off of first base this early in the season or give him a day off, that could be interpreted as a lack of trust and lead to a loss of confidence.

Counsell is managing just his fourth game for the Cubs later today and he’s already proving that he knows how to navigate the minefield of players’ emotions and physical well-being better than just about any manager the Cubs have ever had, including Joe Maddon. 

It certainly looks like Hoyer and ownership invested their money wisely this off-season.

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