Could Schwarber help #Cubs? Sure, Maddon says

Kyle Schwarber may not be ready right now to catch in the big leagues but Cubs manager Joe Maddon feels the youngster could help with his bat.

Schwarber, 22, ranked No. 4 on’s list of top Cubs prospects, was batting .296 at Double-A Tennessee with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs this season. Maddon sees the catcher’s offensive exploits when they’re posted on the new video board at Wrigley Field.

“He’s a a very mature at-bat,” Maddon said of the left-handed hitting catcher, who was the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. “He’s doing better behind the plate, too, from what I understand.”

Maddon said anyone who doubts Schwarber will be in the big leagues soon should just ask him.

“He’s pretty confident,” Maddon said. “He’s a very mature hitter at his experience level and his age.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs lineup vs D-backs: Here’s Johnny

Jason Hammel starts Sunday in the Cubs’ series finale against the D-backs at Chase Field. Jonathan Herrera gets the start at second base in place of Addison Russell. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Montero C

Soler RF

Coghlan LF

Hammel P

Herrera 2B

* The Cubs have won nine of their last 12 games, posting a team ERA of 2.78 over that span.

* Hammel went seven innings, giving up two unearned runs and took a no decision in an eventual Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the

Padres on Tuesday. He hasn’t lost a start since April 22 against the Pirates, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five starts since that most recent loss.

* D-backs starter Jeremy Hellickson is going up against his former manager, Joe Maddon. Hellickson pitched under Maddon from 2010-2014, winning the AL Rookie of the Year in 2011.

* The Cubs have just two home runs from their cleanup hitters — Kris Bryant and Starlin Castro — this season, which is
tied with the Pirates for the fewest home runs from the cleanup spot in MLB. Their .364 SLG from the No. 4 hole
is 25th in MLB.

* Bryant is batting .349 (15-43 AB) with four home runs and 13 RBI during his twelve-game hitting streak. He has 24 walks (.401 OBP) since making his Major League on April 17. That’s the second most in the National League over that span (Bryce Harper: 32 BB).

* Anthony Rizzo has hit safely in his last six games against Arizona dating back to last April, batting .360 (9-25 AB) with
five homers and eleven RBI. Rizzo’s .444 on base percentage ranks third best among qualified major league hitters this season. Only Bryce Harper (.464) and Miguel Cabrera (.447) are better.

* Miguel Montero is batting just .059 (1-17 AB) with six strikeouts in his last five games.

#Cubs to host Nats, Royals at Wrigley Field

The Cubs return home Monday to play host to the Nationals and Royals. It’ll be a good test. The Nats lead the NL East and the Royals are on top in the AL Central. Here are the pitching matchups:

Monday: LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (0-0, 3.86) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (0-2, 2.66)
Tuesday: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 4.14) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (4-2, 3.52)
Wednesday: LHP Jon Lester (4-2, 3.56) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (5-3 ,1.67)

The Cubs are ready.

“We’ve been aware that we have a tough schedule coming up,” Jake Arrieta said. “We approach games with equal importance regardless of who the opponent is. At the end of the day, every one counts. We’ve seen several times how seasons can come down to the final four, five days determining who gets in and who goes home.

“We’re going to value these games just like any other but it’s kind of a measuring stick with a team like Washington and Kansas City which has continued to grow and get better as a team,” Arrieta said. “It’ll be an exciting couple series at home for us. We know what we have to do to win and get ready.”

* Monday’s seventh inning stretch singer will be a country music artist who will be announced leading up to a surprise concert in Wrigleyville.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Minor League report: Beeler, Black, Candelario

Saturday’s games

Dallas Beeler gave up one unearned run over six innings in Iowa’s 13-7 victory over Tacoma. Rubi Silva had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Javier Baez had three hits and two RBIs, plus a walk. It was his second straight multi-hit and multi-RBI game. Taylor Davis had two hits and two RBIs. Beeler struck out six.

In his first start coming off the disabled list, Corey Black gave up one hit over five innings and struck out six in Tennessee’s 2-1 loss to Montgomery. Black did not get a decision.

Jeimer Candelario hit two solo home runs to help Myrtle Beach beat Potomac, 7-3. Paul Blackburn picked up the win, giving up two runs over six innings in his first quality start of the season. Pin-Chieh Chen drove in two runs.

South Bend lost, 6-3, to Bowling Green. Cael Brockmeyer had two hits and two RBIs. Jake Stinnett started, and gave up one run over three innings. Gioskar Amaya had three hits.

#Cubs lineup vs D-backs for Sat 5/23

Jake Arrieta will try to get the Cubs back on track Saturday night when he starts Game 2 of the three-game series against the D-backs at Chase Field. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Montero C

Soler RF

Coghlan LF

Arrieta P

Russell 2B

* The D-backs have won five in a row, posting a 2.55 ERA over that span. A win would put them back at .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 on April 24. Arizona has won six in a row vs. Chicago, dating to April 23, 2014.

* The Cubs have dropped three of their last five games, scoring 13 runs and batting .199 in that span. They’re hitting just .095 (4-for-42) with RISP in the last six games.

* Arrieta went seven innings, giving up one earned run, but took the loss in his last start last Sunday vs. the Pirates. Arrieta is 1-3, with a 3.55 ERA in his last four starts. However, the Cubs have only scored eight runs in those four starts, with six runs coming in one game on May 12 vs. the Mets.

Arrieta’s only career start vs. the D-backs was last July 20. He went 6 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs and took the loss.

* Kris Bryant is batting .359 (14-for-39) with four home runs and 12 RBI during his 11-game hitting streak. Anthony Rizzo is batting .111 (2-for-18) with zero RBI over his last five games. Addison Russell is batting .200 (6-for-30) with eight strikeouts over his last eight games.

* Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt is a career .382 hitter with six home runs, 21 RBI in 20 games vs. the Cubs.

#Cubs Minor League report: Baez, Schwarber, Underwood

Friday’s games

Javier Baez had two hits, including a two-run homer, and Rafael Lopez drove in two runs in the ninth to help Iowa beat Tacoma, 10-9. Every I-Cub in the starting lineup got a hit, and five players finished with multi-hit games, including Christian Villanueva (four hits) and Taylor Davis (three).

Kyle Schwarber belted his 10th home run to end a five-game hitless streak and lead Tennessee to a 4-1 victory over
Montgomery. Schwarber launched a three-run homer in the fifth. Frank Batista picked up the win, giving up two hits over 6
1/3 innings. He struck out seven.

Myrtle Beach scored five runs in the third to beat Potomac, 8-4. Duane Underwood picked up the win, giving up two runs over six innings. He struck out four, and improved to 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA. Mark Zagunis and Pin-Chieh Chen each drove in two runs.

Ryan Williams threw a season-high eight innings in South Bend’s 3-2 win over Bowling green. Williams did not give up a run, struck out three and did not walk a batter. Justin Marra hit a solo homer in the fourth. Cael Brockmeyer had two hits, both doubles, and scored once.

#Cubs Minor League report

Thursday’s games

Arismendy Alcantara hit his fifth home run and added a triple but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost, 5-3, to Tacoma. Felipe
Paulino started for the I-Cubs and gave up three earned runs over four innings. Matt Szczur hit a double.

Jeffry Antigua gave up four runs over six innings in Tennessee’s 4-3 loss to Montgomery. Billy McKinney had two hits.

Myrtle Beach lost, 4-3, to Frederick. Mark Zagunis went 4-for-4 with one RBI and a double. Daury Torrez started and gave up
two runs over six innings.

Cael Brockmeyer hit his second home run, a two-run blast in the fourth, in South Bend’s 17-2 loss to Lansing. Trevor
Clifton took the loss, giving up four earned runs over five innings.

#Cubs lineup and notes vs D-backs

Jon Lester makes his first career start Friday night when the Cubs open a three-game series against the D-backs. Junior Lake will start in left field vs. Jason Collmenter. The D-backs are riding a four-game winning streak. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Soler RF

Lake LF

Ross C

Lester P

Russell 2B

* The Cubs have won eight of their last 10 games behind a starting rotation with a 2.57 ERA (19 ER / 66.2 IP) in that

* A win Friday would put the Cubs seven games over .500 for the first time since September 2009.

* Here’s a strange note: The Cubs are hitless in 27 at-bats with runners in scoring position over their last five games. Their last such hit was Matt Szczur’s 12th inning walkoff single last Friday.

* Lester is a perfect 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA (5 ER / 27 IP) in four starts so far in May. He began the year by going 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in four April starts.

* Kris Bryant is batting .394 (13-for-33) with four homers and 11 RBI during a 10-game hitting streak. Dexter Fowler has a .431 OBP with 10 walks and 15 runs scored during a 13-game on-base streak.

Some laughs with #Cubs Maddon and Jeff Garlin

Comedian Jeff Garlin sat in on Joe Maddon’s pre-game media session in San Diego on Thursday, and revealed that catcher David Ross is under-used, new T-shirts are coming that say the actor is the Cubs manager’s best friend, and he still has a grudge against Steve Garvey.

Asked what he thinks of the Cubs bullpen, Garlin quipped: “I think the same thing Joe thinks.”

OK. Ross has been matched up exclusively with Jon Lester. Is he being playing enough?

“Do I think David Ross has been over-used? No,” Garlin said. “I love David Ross. David Ross is one of the best guys on the team and, as a matter of fact, he’s my favorite pitcher. My favorite pitcher on the Cubs is David Ross, that’s all I’m saying.”

Ross had to pitch one inning in relief May 9 against the Brewers. The catcher did retire all three batters faced.

“He’s perfect — three up, three down, wasn’t he?” Maddon said. “He came in [to the dugout] and said, ‘That’s how to use your fastball.'”

The conversation shifted to the Cubs’ bullpen.

“What do you say about simplicity?” Garlin said.

“Do simple better,” Maddon said.

“When I get with the bullpen guys, that’s all I say is, ‘do simple better,'” Garlin said.

Perhaps Garlin will join the Cubs’ mental skills program?

“I’m just a special guest to get the guys feeling good,” Garlin said. “That’s what I do.”

That does seem to be the goal of the mental skills program.

“I don’t take it that seriously,” Garlin said. “They’ve got you to keep things loose.”

“I try,” Maddon said.

Then Garlin took over the questions.

“What’s it like being better looking than all your players?” Garlin said to Maddon.

“It’s a curse — it’s difficult but I try to downplay it,” Maddon said.

“You have to downplay it — you’re a humble man,” Garlin said. “And you keep it simple.”

Maddon said he lets the players have their moments, then confessed, tongue in cheek: “I’m actually kind of shy.” That got a loud laugh from Garlin.

“By the way,” Garlin said, “in terms of my career, anything [Maddon] wants, carte blanche. I’m going to tell you this right now — I want to do a t-shirt [that says] — this is true — ‘I want to be Joe Maddon’s best friend.’ I’m going to make t-shirts that say ‘I want to be Joe Maddon’s best friend.’ The Cubs took a picture of you and I together and I think they’re going to put it on the background and it’ll say, ‘I want to be Joe Maddon’s best friend.'”

Said Maddon: “I’m going to get a cut of the proceeds you said.”

“Yes, you get a cut of the proceeds,” Garlin said. “Small, you know, but still, the union worked it out. Let me also say, if we do more ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ I promise you’ll be on. You have my word. I will wrestle Larry [David].”

Maddon said he’d be happy just walking behind Garlin in the background.

“I think we’re going to do that — we’ll have you in your Cubs uniform just walking by,” Garlin said.

“It’s just like photo bomb you guys,” Maddon said. “That’s the kind of speaking part I’m looking for.”

Garlin did predict a Cubs win on Thursday over the Padres. He also is still smarting from the Cubs’ 3-2 loss in the 1984 National League Championship Series against the Padres. San Diego’s Garvey was the series Most Valuable Player.

“Any win, by the way, for the Cubs in San Diego still can never make up for what happened here years ago,” Garlin said.

Maddon was aware of the ball between Chicago first baseman Leon Durham’s legs in deciding Game 5, a 6-3 San Diego win.

“I don’t blame [Durham],” Garlin said. “I blame Steve Garvey. He’s much easier to dislike.”

That got a big laugh.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs lineup and early notes

Kyle Hendricks gets the start Thursday when the Cubs close their three-game series in San Diego against the Padres. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Montero C

Soler RF

Coghlan LF

Hendricks P

Russell 2B

* A win Thursday would give the Cubs their best 40-game start since opening the 2008 season with a 24-16 record en route to a 97 win season.

* The Cubs have won seven of their last nine games. The bullpen is 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA and six scoreless performances in that span.

* Each of the first two games in this series have been decided by a single run. The Cubs have played an MLB-high 19
one-run games this season (12-7 record).

* San Diego starter Odrisamer Despaigne lost to the Nats on Friday with seven runs allowed in three innings. Despaigne has allowed 15 runs over eight innings in his last two starts, with the Padres having been outscored by a 21-0 margin in those two games. With Brandon Morrow (shoulder) likely nearing a return, Despaigne may be pitching to keep his rotation spot.

* Hendricks took a no-decision against the Pirates on Friday after allowing five runs over 5.2 innings in an eventual 11-10 win in 12 innings. Hendricks is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA (2 ER / 13 IP) in two career starts against San Diego. He took a no-decision against the Padres on April 18 (2 ER / 6 IP) in an eventual Cubs win. Hendricks owns a 3.31 ERA in 20 career starts.

* Kris Bryant is hitting .414 (12-29 AB) with nine RBI during a nine-game hitting streak. The Cubs are 12-2 this season when Bryant drives in at least one run (just 10-15 when no RBI from Bryant).

* The Cubs have drawn 145 walks this season—tied with the Red Sox for the second-most of any team (Dodgers). They’re led by Bryant (24 walks) and Anthony Rizzo (22 walks).

* Rizzo’s .460 OBP is second-best in the Majors to Bryce Harper. His high OBP has helped boost his OPS to a 1.047 mark—good for third in MLB.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50,034 other followers