WASHINGTON – Do the Cubs envision a scenario where Jorge Soler returns – and everyone else stays healthy – and Albert Almora Jr. sticks with the big-league team instead of going back to Triple-A Iowa?
Almora is trying to force the issue, delivering the game-winning RBI double in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals. And starting in center field on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, giving him a chance to show off his potential Gold Glove defense.
“Wow, I haven’t even thought about that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I honestly don’t know. With a guy like Albert, you want to make sure you have some opportunity to give him some playing time. You don’t want him to sit. He’s still in that developmental stage.
“You can only see something like that happening if you really thought you could still get him in games on some kind of regular basis. Otherwise, he’s better served not being here.”
Almora turned 22 in mid-April, played only 54 games on the Triple-A level and got promoted last week when Soler strained his left hamstring. Soler can be activated from the disabled list on June 22, but the Cubs haven’t given any indications about a timeline and probably won’t be in a rush with a player who has an extensive injury history.
“Who knows what’s going to happen by then?” Maddon said. “We had this wonderful problem of having too many outfielders. And then (Kyle) Schwarber gets hurt, Soler gets hurt, and now you’re on to Plan B and C. So I really, honestly, don’t think that far ahead, because it just normally takes care of itself.”
Once healthy, Soler would become part of the rotation again, but Almora can play all three outfield spots, cover a lot of ground and make game-changing throws. Maddon is also the type of manager who digs run prevention and shows patience with developing hitters, particularly in this stacked lineup.
“But look at the big picture,” Maddon said. “Where are we going to be at that time? What’s our record going to look like? What’s going on? And then you try to determine, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be about him. And what’s best for him right at that particular time. You don’t want him to sit, man.
“There’s too many moving parts right now for me to be concerned with (that). Love him out there. Very comfortable with him out there, but those are the kind of questions (where) you got to wait until the moment to try to figure out exactly what you want.”
Four years after the Cubs made him the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Almora believes he’s right where he’s supposed to be.
“I’m just trying to help the team win,” Almora said. “Once I get in the game, I’m trying to stay locked in, no matter the situation. I’m just there to do my job, like I would do anywhere else.
“That’s the biggest thing in my game – knowing that I belong.”