Cubs' Maddon optimistic entering series finale vs. Reds (Jul 02, 2017)

BY AP • July 1, 2017

CINCINNATI -- The Chicago Cubs are at the midpoint of the 2017 regular season, and all things considered, manager Joe Maddon is pleased with his team's condition.

"Based on everything that's occurred to this point, I'll take it," Maddon said. "I'll take where we are in the standings right now. Not a bad place to be."

The Cubs play the finale of a three-game weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park. The All-Star break is just around the corner and Maddon said he's preparing his state of the team message to the players, when it will occur and what he'll say.

"What I normally try to do in a pragmatic way is revisit what we talked about in spring training," Maddon said. "What we've done well, what we need to improve on."

The defending World Series champions, slowly but surely, are getting healthy. Kris Bryant returned to the lineup Saturday from a sprained right ankle. Ben Zobrist was reinstated from the disabled list on Saturday. And Jason Heyward and Kyle Hendricks are getting closer to minor-league rehab assignments.

"There are a lot of good things on the horizon," Maddon said.

Jake Arrieta (7-6, 4.67 ERA) will make his 17th start of the season on Sunday. It's his fourth straight start away from Wrigley Field. He has gone 4-6 with a 5.04 ERA in 11 road starts.

Arrieta allowed six runs (five earned) in four innings in his last start, a 6-1 loss at Washington. He is 6-2 with a 3.76 ERA in eight career starts against the Reds, including a no-hitter at Great American Ball Park last year.

"I can pitch at his level," Arrieta told "I just haven't done it consistently. I've had a couple good ones, a bad one, a couple good ones. I'd like to be more consistent throughout."

Cincinnati (35-45) will counter with right-hander Tim Adleman (5-4, 4.62 ERA) who has produced four quality starts in his previous seven outings. He has faced the Cubs three times in his career, once this season. On April 21, Adleman allowed two earned runs in six innings with seven strikeouts but was not involved in the decision in a 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Cubs at Great American Ball Park.

Shortstop Zack Cozart could return to the Reds' lineup on Sunday. Cozart, who missed 10 games with a quad injury, was reinstated from the disabled list on Friday but did not play Saturday. He's expected to get regular off days leading up to the All-Star break.

"We've written up a schedule," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Knowing Zack is much better, but not 100 percent, we felt reintegrating on a slow pace back to regular duty."

On Sunday night, Cozart will learn if he's the starting shortstop for the National League All-Star team. In the final announced All-Star vote tally, he was 108,282 votes ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager.

The Cubs (40-41) have won 23 of the past 30 meetings with Cincinnati but need a win on Sunday to avoid their first sweep in Cincinnati since 1996.

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