Could Cubs' Schwarber return to leadoff spot?
One of the big questions concerning Kyle Schwarber's return to the Cubs is where he bats.
Schwarber was optioned to Class AAA Iowa on June 22 to work on his game. His return could come either this weekend or after the all-star break.
After Schwarber began the season as the Cubs' leadoff hitter, he was moved down after struggling.
Manager Joe Maddon has said that when Schwarber is hitting, he's still the Cubs' best bet at the top. But Maddon wouldn't say Wednesday if Schwarber will return to the leadoff spot once he's recalled.
"I don't know where he's at, what it looks like right now," Maddon said. "I've thought about it. I honestly don't know."
On a touchy subject, Maddon continued to maintain that batting leadoff did not contribute to Schwarber's struggles at the plate.
"It's zero concern," he said. "He would have struggled in the 8-hole. I find no connection between his struggling and where he was hitting in the batting order. It's just that he was struggling, just missing his pitch, fouling it off.
"It had nothing to do with placement in the batting order because he was not trying to be any kind of a different hitter. He was not trying to accept more walks. He was not trying to do anything differently. It was a matter of he was just not hitting. In my mind's eye, that has nothing to do with it. So I would not be concerned with putting him back there, just depending on what he looks like when he gets back."
Stumping for Jay:
Starting pitcher John Lackey had high praise for outfielder Jon Jay, whose 3-run homer tied Wednesday's game against the Rays at 3-3. The Cubs eventually won 7-3.
"He's been everything we've needed this year," Lackey said. "I honestly can't believe he doesn't play more."
Lackey left it at that. Jay was tactful.
"I show up every day and I'm ready to play, whether it's coming off the bench or starting, whatever the case may be," he said. "I work hard to stay ready. When my name's called upon, I'm going to be ready to go out there and hopefully help out the team."
The Cubs say pitcher Kyle Hendricks' bullpen session Tuesday went well, and he'll throw another, perhaps Friday, as he comes back from tendinitis in his right hand.
If all goes well, it's likely Hendricks will head out on a minor-league rehab assignment and be ready to go after the all-star break.
Praise for Strop:
Reliever Pedro Strop got the win Wednesday by pitching 1 inning of perfect relief. Strop is 3-2 with a 3.13 ERA and a WHIP of 1.20.
"I think Stropie is a guy who is being overlooked right now a little bit," Joe Maddon said. "Stropie's really pitching well. He's pitching really, really well right now."
Go figure these numbers:
Joe Maddon cited an interesting stat Wednesday in talking about Tuesday's 6-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
"Yesterday, we saw 189 pitches," he said. "That is a high number of pitches. The disconnect this year has been great at-bats, we've seen a ton of pitches, we get guys out there, and I'm telling you, it's going to happen, where the RBI, the run driven in, is going to occur. It just has to. I liked yesterday's game. Obviously we didn't win it but I felt good in the dugout.
"The at-bats were wonderful. It's just one of those moments where we have not been able to consistently get the hit with runners in scoring position."