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Joe Maddon on Jorge Soler: 'I saw a major league baseball player out there'

SAN FRANCISCO -- How many times do you need to be reminded that Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward was signed for much more than what he does at the plate?

You can literally add a defensive run saved to his 2016 total -- he had five coming into Friday night's game against the San Francisco Giants -- as he potentially sacrificed his right hip to make a diving catch on the first batter of the game in the Cubs' 8-1 win.

"I'm at a loss for words," winning pitcher Jake Arrieta said after the game. "An amazing catch."

Manager Joe Maddon says he thinks Denard Span would have had an inside-the-park home run if the ball fell in, and maybe the whole night would have been different. We'll know more about Heyward's condition Saturday, but for now the assumption has to be that he could be lost for at least a little while. That means once again Jorge Soler will be thrust into the spotlight.

In perhaps an ironic twist, on the night the Cubs' best all-around outfielder went down, the one struggling to become one had his best all-around game. Soler was magnificent.

"It's nice to see Jorge play a complete game because that's what we're looking for from all of our guys," Maddon said. "We just don't want hitters, we want guys that will play a complete game. I was really, really pleased to see that for him and for us."

Maddon was emphatic in his postgame comments regarding his 24-year-old left fielder. Soler homered, singled, lined out to second and played flawlessly in the field. On an extremely windy night, he caught two balls near the wall, stifling any threat the Giants were mounting.

"I don't care about the home run at all," Maddon said. "It has nothing to do with how excited I am right now. Everything else I saw, I saw a major league baseball player out there. That's what got me excited.

"How about how he ran the bases? When he came in after scoring one run, I wanted him to know that's how you run the bases."

Maddon was downright giddy because he's hoping the message is finally getting through. We saw things from Soler we haven't seen much of. Tracking fly balls, swinging at strikes and running the bases properly are exactly what Heyward does when he's at his best. Can Soler get there? That's the question on everyone's mind.

"I want to believe he understands what we're talking about," Maddon said. "He went out and did it. That's the kind of mental effort that can make him a superstar."

We've seen flashes from Soler in the past but rarely on defense unless he's throwing someone out. Even that hasn't happened much lately, and he has been relegated to playing only when the matchup is right. If Heyward is down, combined with Kyle Schwarber's injury, it's yet another chance for Soler to shine.

How do the Cubs replace their right fielder even for a short amount of time? Maybe we saw how after Heyward limped off the field.

"How about what Soler did tonight?" Maddon said smiling.