The Cubs played a good game Monday despite dropping the opener of the series with the Cardinals. Joe Maddon ran out a very young and inexperienced lineup. Seven of his eight position players were 26 years old or younger. And two of the most important positions on the field had a combined two weeks of service time in the majors.
The Cubs disabled list got a little longer Monday when Dexter Fowler was placed on the 15-day DL with right hamstring soreness. Fowler is the third Cubs’ outfielder currently on the DL.
Reports suggested the Cubs are not viewing Fowler’s injury as being serious. And Jed Hoyer doesn’t “think this would become a long-term injury for Fowler.”
In fact, if Joe Maddon’s team had not built up the lead in the division the Cubs had entering play Monday, Fowler likely would not have been placed on the DL. The Cubs would have just rested him for three to four days. But with a double digit lead in the division and in the middle of a stretch of 24 games in 24 days, the Cubs decided it was best to place Fowler on the DL, get him right and call up Carl Edwards Jr. to help what is a tired bullpen.
Albert Almora Jr. is expected to get a lot of playing time in center while Fowler is on the DL. Joe Maddon can also use Jason Heyward and Matt Szczur in center. Chris Coghlan can play left and right field. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist give the Cubs depth in the corner spots. And it may turn out Bryant plays a lot of outfield, either left or right field, with Javier Baez at third base.
The Cubs have the versatility to make it work in the field. Being without Fowler for two weeks will impact the offense. Maddon has used Ben Zobrist and Chris Coghlan at leadoff in the two games Fowler missed and may stick to that combination. It will be interesting to see if Maddon goes back to hitting his pitcher eighth to help Albert Almora Jr. the same way he did with Addison Russell last season.
The Cubs have the players to still win a lot of games. Hector Rondon might be a lot more active while Fowler is out.
Joe Maddon discussed the Cubs plans for Willson Contreras prior to the young catcher making his first big league start Monday night. Contreras could catch two or three times a week according to ESPN Chicago.
Jesse Rogers explained Miguel Montero will continue to catch Jake Arrieta. David Ross will be behind the plate for Jon Lester. At least two, if not the other three starters could have Contreras as their catcher.
Maddon told the beat writers, “If we can get two out of five, possibly a three spot once in a while, I think that can keep him somewhat solvent.”
According to ESPN Chicago, “Montero will still get his at-bats but no longer is he the Cubs’ starting catcher as they head toward the second half of the season.”
Montero’s comments points to the veteran catcher being fine with the direction the team is going. Montero said to ESPN Chicago, “If he does take the job, it’s for the right reasons. He’s young, full of excitement, lots of energy. It’s all good, especially because it’s Willson.”
“He’s the guy of the future for the Cubs,” Montero told ESPN Chicago. “At this point in my career, in this clubhouse, it’s about winning. Stats don’t concern me. I call a good game. That’s a big part. My pitchers are doing great. I’m not afraid to lose my job. I’ve always said that because I know what I’m capable of doing, and if I can help someone else in the same position I’d be more than happy. Schwarber last year and now Contreras. When I retire and go home I would like the catchers that took my job to say ‘man, he helped me so much’ … not that he hates me. He likes me and I did something good.”
Montero pointed out to ESPN Chicago that he hopes Contreras takes advantage of having him and David Ross in the clubhouse to help him as much as they can. Montero said he will be there for Contreras.
One of the focuses for the team entering Spring Training was to control the other team’s running game. The front office saw last fall that teams were running and running often against the Cubs, especially in the post-season. Contreras has the arm, and then some, to shut down a running game.
Contreras threw out Matt Carpenter by a mile trying to steal second base in the ninth inning. And Carpenter got a good jump off first base. That play was all Contreras (click here for video).
“As we move forward, if he were to pinch hit he could actually finish some games because his arm definitely plays in the latter part of the game throwing runners out,” Maddon said to ESPN Chicago. “We’ll be creative.”
Contreras went 1-for-4 at the plate Monday night and drove in the Cubs’ second run of the game with a two-out single to center. Contreras worked at bats, like he has in the minors the last two seasons, and even when he rolled into the double play, the ball was put in play.
Contreras seemed to get on the right page with John Lackey as the game progressed. And defensively is where Contreras shined, especially on two plays … throwing out Carpenter in the ninth and tagging Diaz to end the ninth inning.
“You’re always going to see me with high energy,” Contreras said after the game. “If a runner is trying to score on my plate … if they make a good throw … they won’t score on my plate. It’s my house. It’s my team. I will do everything for my team.”
Willson Contreras has brought a genuine energy to the Cubs, a team that had a nice lead in the division before his arrival. While his youth and inexperience will be seen from time to time, the Cubs may have just gotten a lot better.
Albert Almora Jr.
With Dexter Fowler on the disabled list, Albert Almora Jr. is expected to see a lot of playing time in center field. Almora Jr. started Monday in place of Fowler and batted eighth. Almora Jr. doubled with one out in the ninth and was thrown out trying to take third on a ball in the dirt.
Almora Jr. took responsibility for the play and told the beat writers he felt like he let his team down. In defense of Almora Jr., the ball hit the umpire in the foot and kept it from going to the backstop. For as good as Yadier Molina’s throw was, the Cardinals were lucky the ball was sitting there for him to pick up and make a play.
Maddon loved what he saw on the play from Almora Jr.
“I loved it. I have no problem with Albert. Hits the double in the gap. Molina made a really good play. They made a good tag. I never want to coach the aggressiveness out of that young man. I think he’s been playing great. They made a good play. His judgement might’ve been impacted by the ball hitting the umpire in the foot.”
It’s always difficult when the Cubs drop a game to the Cardinals. Monday was not an exception. Unfortunately, Monday was one of those games a team loses over the course of a long season. Here are the post-game reports and recap …
- CCO – Cubs Comebacks Falls Short, Drop a Game to the Cardinals
- The Tribune – Cubs see upside, downside of youth in 3-2 loss to Cardinals
- ESPN Chicago – Cubs play their youth and it shows in loss to Cardinals
- Comcast SportsNet – Cardinals fend off Cubs comeback at Wrigley
Game two of round three between the Cubs and Cardinals is Tuesday night. And it will not get an easier for the Cubs offense. Adam Wainwright has put together Wainwright-like starts for the last month. It will be up to Jason Hammel to keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard.
Jeimer Candelario was on base four times, scored a run and drove in another in Iowa’s 5-4 win over Memphis on Monday. Candelario was 1-for-2 with a double, three walks, a strikeout and a run scored. Candelario doubled in the tying run in the fifth inning.
In 12 games with the Iowa Cubs, Jeimer Candelario is hitting .316/.471/.605 with four doubles, two triples and a home run for a 1.076 OPS. Candelario has nine walks and nine strikeouts in 38 at bats … and seven of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have trade chips, but Javier Baez is not one of them.
• The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Mike Bryant to coach Cubs-backed team in Vegas Baseball Classic.
• Rusney Castillo cleared waivers Monday and was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Nick Cafardo pointed out the Sox are paying two non-roster players, Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig, nearly $20 million this season. Castillo is owed $52.02 million. Castillo is a reminder of one of the dumbest things the Red Sox have ever done according to Eric Wilbur. And Wilbur questioned if Jon Lester would still be pitching in Boston if the Red Sox had avoided Castillo.
• The Rangers signed one-time Cubs’ reliever LHP Neal Cotts to a minor league contract.
• According to Jon Paul Morosi, the Marlins are looking at starters and relievers and “have had preliminary contact with the Rays” about Jake Odorizzi.
• The Rays might be interested in a reunion with OF Carl Crawford according to a report from Hardball Talk citing Marc Topkin as its source. And the Mets are debating internally whether or not to bring back Jose Reyes.
— #VoteCubs (@Cubs) June 20, 2016
This Day in Cubstory
2008 – The Cubs beat the White Sox behind a nine-run fourth inning that included a three-run homer by Aramis Ramirez, a solo shot by Mike Fontenot and two home runs by Jim Edmonds
1981 – Jeff Baker, born
1960 – Richie Ashburn played his first game in Philadelphia since being traded to Cubs in the off-season
1956 – Rick Sutcliffe, born
1942 – Dom Dallesandro hit a pinch-hit grand slam with two outs in the ninth that helped the Cubs beat the Giants 7-2 at the Polo Grounds
1936 – The Cubs won their 15th straight game with a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers in the first game of a doubleheader at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers snapped the Cubs winning streak with a 6-4 win in game two.
1928 – The Cubs split a doubleheader with the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won the first game 2-1 and lost the second 4-1. After grounding out in the bottom of the ninth in the second game, Hack Wilson climbed into the stands and attacked Edward Young, a milkman who had been drinking more than milk. Young was insulting Wilson during the game. Gabby Hartnett and Joe Kelly broke up the fight after which Riggs Stephenson popped out for the final out. National League President John Heydler fined Wilson $100 and Judge Francis P. Allegretti fined Young $1.
1907 – Mordecai Brown won his tenth consecutive game when the Cubs beat the Cardinals 2-0 at West Side Grounds. Catcher Johnny Kling threw out four runners trying to steal second base.