Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bee stings aside, Jason Heyward’s transition to Cubs has been smooth

Jason Heyward signs autographs before a spring training game. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
Mark Gonzales Chicago Tribune

MESA, Ariz. – Familiarity with his new teammates has helped Jason Heyward’s transition to the Cubs appear seamless.

“It’s kind of flown by,” Heyward said as he knocked on the wood panel of his locker stall while preparing for the final week of spring training.

Perhaps he should have knocked harder, as Heyward received an unwelcome late welcome during Sunday’s game from a swarm of bees that he said stung him more than 10 times in the third inning against the Mariners at Sloan Park.

One inning after Heyward moved from right field to center, the bees came from right and caused him to swat his hands several times before leaping to the top of the fence.

“I should have went over the fence,” Heyward said.

The bees fled later to left field, causing the Cubs bullpen to move to the right-field bullpen. The game was delayed by more than five minutes as the bees covered a bullpen chair, but Heyward stayed in the game and homered in the bottom of the third.

“It’s OK,” said Heyward, who showed no signs of swelling. “I’m not allergic.”

Heyward’s ability to take the incident in stride blends in well with a loose and versatile Cubs team. He neatly fills the gulf between the youngsters with little playoff experience and successful veterans seeking another World Series ring.

“He’s the key piece,” said catcher David Ross, who is entering his final season. “You have young guys coming in with little experience with a lot of hype. He went through that at Atlanta. He was supposed to be the savior. With him still being young and in his seventh year in the league, he’s able to relate to both sides.”

As manager Joe Maddon tinkers with lineup combinations that include switch hitters Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist, Heyward provides more options with his experience batting in the top five spots with the Braves and Cardinals.

Heyward has made 219 career starts in the second spot, where he batted Sunday behind Fowler.

“Just be ready,” Heyward said. “That’s what they like. With our lineup, we can hit so many guys in so many different places and get a lot of things done on any given day. You’ve got to be flexible for the team. You get used to that early on, it’s going to pay off later in the season when you may have to mix things up ”

With the re-signing of Fowler and the addition of Zobrist, Maddon has a reasonable chance to surpass the 119 lineups he used in 2015. And Heyward has accepted any spot without qualms.

Heyward said being traded from the Braves to the Cardinals before the 2015 season helped him adjust to new surroundings as well as join a singular mission to win the World Series.

“I got to see it acted out a whole lot in St. Louis,” Heyward said. “The front office has the same mindset of trying to win a World Series. As a player, you’re not working for anything other than that. This is no different.”