Cubs fill-ins continue to deliver in win over Padres
A few weeks ago, a storyline for the Cubs was how well new additions like Nico Hoerner, Matt Duffy and Jake Marisnick were fitting in and helping elevate the lineup.
Now it's time for the second wave.
With nine guys on the 10-day injured list, including all three players mentioned above, it's allowed a new group of fill-ins to shine. With Patrick Wisdom hitting 2 home runs and emergency starter Kohl Stewart summoned from Iowa, the Cubs handled the San Diego Padres 7-2 on Monday at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs couldn't have asked for much more from Stewart. Getting his first major-league start in more than two years, he pitched 5 innings, allowing 3 hits and 1 unearned run. Stewart filled in for Trevor Williams, who had an appendectomy Sunday morning and is now on the injured list.
Stewart was a No. 4 overall draft pick of Minnesota in 2013 and hasn't had much luck at the major-league level. He joined the Cubs as a free agent and set out to improve his sinker in spring training.
"Honestly, it just felt like such a good fit," Stewart said. "They've had a lot of success with guys with sinkers in the past. I feel extremely blessed to be in the position I'm in and playing for the team I'm playing for. I feel like the information I've gotten here and the coaching I've gotten here has been the best of my career."
The Cubs added several players last winter who have had a taste of the big leagues, but never a chance to play regularly. Wisdom was called up when Duffy went on the injured list with a sore back and has now hit 3 home runs in seven games with the Cubs.
The Cubs have already had five players make their major-league debuts this season. Now there are eight players on the active roster who played for the Iowa Cubs this season.
"When you walk in (the clubhouse) and (Anthony) Rizzo's dapping you up and saying welcome and you've got (Jason) Heyward doing the same thing," Wisdom said. "When you see those guys first right when you step in and they're making you feel relaxed and comfortable, it just kind of sets it up for later down the road."
Manager David Ross thinks everyone buying into a "next man up" mentality helped the Cubs post a 19-8 record in May, despite the rash of injuries.
"You feel that from our dugout, the guys are into every pitch. It's encouraging," Ross said. "(The veterans) are rooting for these guys and it's encouraging as the manager of the team that the guys are handling things this way."
Long ball was the offensive strategy Monday as the wind at Wrigley finally changed direction. Javy Baez hit 2 homers, including a tape-measure blast that just missed the camera shed in center field and put the Cubs up 2-1 in the third inning. Kris Bryant also belted his 12th homer of the season.
Baez admitted he was energized by facing the Padres, who started the day as one of the teams with the best record in the majors. San Diego also has one of baseball's brightest young stars in Fernando Tatis Jr., who homered Monday and pulled off a Baez-like fake slide to avoid a tag at second base.
"Oh yeah, for sure," Baez said. "We were talking about it in the dugout. If you look out on the infield, it's an great infield, it's an expensive infield. It's great to see them play against us."
Between Tatis, Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer, the Padres have about $600 million in future salaries wrapped up in their infield.
Wisdom, Stewart and Rafael Ortega make a little less than that, but they put the Cubs in the win column Monday.