It appears Ian Stewart's chances of appearing again in a major-league uniform for the Cubs are remote, at best.
The Cubs on Wednesday said Stewart had cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Iowa. It's an interesting move because the Cubs did not have to make it.
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Stewart injured his left quad early in spring training and finished a minor league rehab stint at Iowa last Friday. At that point, the Cubs optioned him to Iowa, making him a minor league player.
But Stewart took the 72 hours allowed to him to report, even though he already was with the club. General manager Jed Hoyer expressed disappointment Monday that Stewart took so long to report, given that he was batting under .100 in his rehab assignment.
On Wednesday, they took him off the 40-man roster after all of the other teams passed on him.
The Cubs no doubt rue their decision to keep Stewart after they did not tender him a contract last December. They decided to re-sign him as a free agent for $2 million (originally non-guaranteed), slightly less than what he made last year.
They're getting good performance from Luis Valbuena, who replaced Stewart last June, after Stewart went out for the season with a wrist injury. Valbuena leads the team in walks (16) and has a hitting line of .270/.387/.483 with 5 homers and 13 RBI.
The closer situation:
It had been trending that way, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum made it official Wednesday by naming veteran Kevin Gregg the team's closer. Gregg is 5-for-5 in save chances. He was the team's closer for most of 2009, and he signed a minor league deal to return last month.
Carlos Marmol lost his job as closer, but he has had 2 decent outings this week. Kyuji Fujikawa, who took over for Marmol, finished a minor league rehab assignment at Class AA Tennessee on Wednesday, pitching 2 scoreless innings and giving up 1 hit. He threw 16 pitches.
"We'll kind of get him in and get him acclimated and see how he's doing out there on the mound in a big-league atmosphere," Sveum said of Fujikawa.
On Gregg, Sveum said making him the closer is the logical choice at this point.
"With the problems we had, it was just a great, great pickup and obviously, he's run with it and one a heck of a job," the manager said. "He's a veteran guy that doesn't panic. He's been in those situations before.
"Like I talked about before, those last three outs aren't made for everybody. He throw strikes. He's got some life on his fastball. Pitch location has been as much as anything. He can work both sides of the plate. That's the good thing about him."
This and that:
Slumping second baseman Darwin Barney, who is hitless in his last 21 at-bats, got the day off. He had a private batting-practice session with Dale Sveum in the morning. ... Catcher Welington Castillo also got the day off, but he worked on throws to second base before the game. Castillo has made 5 errors.