Cubs

Cubs keeping Kyle Schwarber in the picture for second half

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Cubs keeping Kyle Schwarber in the picture for second half

Could Miguel Montero’s injury create an opening for top prospect Kyle Schwarber behind the plate? It’s something the Cubs will have to consider if Montero’s jammed left thumb becomes a worst-case scenario.

“Of course,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. “But for right now, we have not gotten to that point.”

Schwarber didn’t get a taste of the crosstown rivalry, spending his weekend some 300 miles away from Wrigley Field and being a part of the All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati.

The Cubs activated David Ross from the seven-day concussion disabled list before Sunday’s game and started Taylor Teagarden against the White Sox.

[MORE CUBS: Jon Lester: No more excuses after up-and-down first half with Cubs]

The Cubs are still waiting to get a better read on Montero’s MRI, though they have ruled out a broken bone. Montero caught Jon Lester for two innings on Saturday before leaving the game, and it’s unclear how serious this injury might be.

“I don’t know,” Maddon said. “I’m hearing the initial evaluation was like it could be not so bad — and then it could be bad. It totally is in this like midrange thing.

“We’re waiting to hear back the test results. We’ll know more, obviously, over the next couple days, and we’ll figure it out. We’ll use the All-Star break to try and assess where we’re at and how we want to move forward in the second half.”

The Cubs fast-tracked Schwarber and promoted him from Double-A Tennessee last month to make him their designated hitter for a stretch of interleague play. He went 8-for-22 (.364) with one home run and six RBIs in six games before heading to Triple-A Iowa to continue his education as a catcher.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Since the Cubs drafted Schwarber No. 4 overall out of Indiana University last year, he has hit .333 with 34 homers, 102 RBIs and a 1.042 OPS through 147 career games in the minors.

The Cubs have never really questioned Schwarber’s bat, hoping he could stay behind the plate while knowing he could always move to left field. That could be the plan by the middle of August or early September — if not sooner — since the Cubs will need an offensive spark in the playoff chase.

“Schwarber’s always in the consideration for what we’re doing in the future,” Maddon said. “I don’t know exactly how he’s been playing, or what we think of him as a catcher right now. I haven’t heard anything new. I haven’t been researching it. So we’ll find out.”

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: