The Cubs are 15-5 after 20 games with one of the best starts in franchise history. And one of the big reasons the Cubs are 10 games over .500 in April is Dexter Fowler.
Fowler was the last player to sign a Major League contract with the team. His unexpected return on the day he was reportedly scheduled to take a physical to finalize a contract with the Orioles has paid off both offensively and defensively for Joe Maddon. Fowler has set the tone for the Cubs relentless offense. And with Fowler manning center field, Jason Heyward has been able to show why he is considered by many to be the best defensive right fielder in the game.
Through 19 games, Fowler is hitting .368/.488/.662 with nine doubles, a triple and three home runs for a 1.150 OPS. Fowler has 15 walks and 18 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances with 14 RBI and 45 total bases. Fowler has reached base safely 42 times this season and scored 17 runs.
Fowler is in the top five in the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, walks and OPS. Fowler is sixth in slugging percentage and tied for second in both doubles and extra basehits.
Joe Maddon admitted Wednesday that he almost made a change to his lineup last season. Before Fowler turned it around at the plate, Maddon considered hitting Kyle Schwarber at the top of the order and dropping Fowler to the two-hole. Maddon said the team’s staff “felt very strong” that Fowler would start producing as he did with the Rockies and Astros.
This season, Dexter Fowler has reached base with either a hit or a walk in 17 of the 18 games he’s had a plate appearance.
The Cubs have scored 123 runs, second only to the Cardinals (137) in three fewer games, and the plus-69 run differential is the best in baseball.
As Maddon tells Dexter Fowler before every at bat, ‘You go. We go.’ And that’s certainly been the case for the Cubs over the first month of the season.
Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras
Miguel Montero was not in Wednesday’s starting lineup before the game was postponed. According to multiple reports, Montero would have been available off the bench. And the Sun-Times reported Joe Maddon said if the Brewers tied Tuesday’s game Montero would have played.
Maddon indicated Wednesday that Montero was feeling better. David Ross was in the starting lineup and would have caught three straight days if not for the rainout.
Ross is expected to start Thursday and Friday, which would give Montero two more days. Reports Wednesday suggested Montero would be ready for Saturday’s game against the Braves. John Lackey is scheduled to start game two of three with Atlanta.
According to Comcast SportsNet, Montero’s back “hasn’t responded well to the cold Chicago weather.” Montero is not expected to go on the DL, but the Cubs are pushing Ross, who was only supposed to catch every five days when the season started. As the roster is currently constructed, if Montero could not play and something happened in-game to Ross, Javier Baez is the Cubs third catcher.
Joe Maddon was asked about the possibility of the Cubs calling up Willson Contreras.
Maddon said, “It depends on what happens. You would have to look at a short-term solution or a long-term situation regarding who you may want to bring up, just based on roles.”
Patrick Mooney reported the Cubs have veteran Tim Federowicz at Triple-A Iowa. Federowicz is not on the 40-man roster and Contreras is. But Contreras “looks like a potential second-half energy boost.”
Jed Hoyer recently said Federowicz is probably the next guy up if the Cubs needed a catcher on the active roster. The Cubs want Contreras to continue his development at Triple-A Iowa. Hoyer pointed to the end of the season as a possibility for Contreras.
The Cubs have questions about “how Contreras can handle a staff” with where he is on his development path. Contreras is viewed as the team’s catcher of the future and he impressed Maddon and the coaching staff in Spring Training. He simply needs time in the minors, not in the big leagues for a team considered a favorite to play deep into October.
Of course, the Cubs plans could change based on the needs of the big league team. Montero’s back could create multiple problems if he’s not able to play by Saturday. And force the Cubs to bring up a catcher from Iowa.
Updated 11:45am CDT – Cubs to place Miguel Montero on DL. Tim Federowicz called up from Iowa.
Cubs Starting Rotation
Rain postponed Wednesday’s Cubs-Brewers game and if the two teams are able to get Thursday afternoon’s game in, here’s how Joe Maddon’s rotation will lineup through the Pirates series that begins Monday at PNC.
- Thursday, April 28 (1:20pm CDT) – Jake Arrieta vs. Brewers, Taylor Jungmann
- Friday, April 29 (1:20pm CDT) – Jon Lester vs. Braves, Aaron Blair
- Saturday, April 30 (1:20pm CDT) – John Lackey vs. Braves, Julio Teheran
- Sunday, May 1 (1:20pm CDT) – Jason Hammel vs. Braves, Matt Wisler
- Monday, May 2 (6:05pm CDT) – Kyle Hendricks vs. Pirates, Jon Niese
- Tuesday, May 3 (6:05pm CDT) – Jake Arrieta vs. Pirates, Juan Nicasio
- Wednesday, May 4 (11:35am CDT) – Jon Lester vs. Pirates, Francisco Liriano
News and Notes
• David Ross expects greatness from Cubs ace Jake Arrieta according to the Tribune.
• Comcast SportsNet reported amid rain and PED media storm, Jake Arrieta’s next no-hit bid will wait another day.
• ESPN Chicago said rainout gives Jake Arrieta another day off.
• The Tribune reported Addison Russell is not afraid of key moments.
• Anthony Rizzo has driven in 22 runs this month, most RBI for a Cubs player in April since Derrek Lee (23) and Aramis Ramirez (22) in the first month of the 2008 season. Rizzo’s eight home runs is the most in April since Alfonso Soriano hit 10 five years ago (2011).
• Bill Mitchell reported Shane Victorino is “still grinding away” in extended Spring Training trying to work his way back to the majors.
• RHP Dylan Cease pitched three innings in an extended Spring Training game Wednesday. According to Bill Mitchell, Cease’s fastball was in the 97-98 mph range. Cease gave up a run on a hit and a two walks.
• The Sun-Times reported the Cubs, Sox on a rare collision course? It’s only April, but …
• The Nationals believe Ben Revere will be ready to come off the DL in time for the series at Wrigley next week. Revere began a rehab assignment Wednesday. Revere has been on the shelf since April 6 with a right oblique strain.
• Joe Maddon’s ‘Try Not to Suck’ T-shirts are now available in pink.
And last, but not least, even Javier Baez was impressed by his slide Tuesday night.
This Day in Cubstory
2005 – Cubs signed free agent Shane Halter
2005 – Cubs released Eddie Oropesa
1985 – John Gaub, born
1984 – Cubs released Mike Proly
1975 – Cubs traded Matt Alexander to the A’s for Buddy Copeland
1974 – Cubs released Mike Paul
1966 – Cubs traded Bobby Cox and cash to the Braves for Billy Cowan
1962 – Luis Quinones, born
1906 – The only time in the history of the game that two player-managers stole home on the same day, but not in the same game. Frank Chance swiped home in the ninth inning of a 1-0 victory over the Reds and Fred Clarke stole home in the Pirates 10-1 win over the Cardinals.
1906 – Cubs traded Hub Knolls to the Brooklyn Superbas for Doc Gessler
1875 – Walt Woods, born