Cubs

Cubs call up Gonzalez Germen, option Matt Szczur to Triple-A

gonzalez-germen-4-19.png

Cubs call up Gonzalez Germen, option Matt Szczur to Triple-A

With a taxed bullpen in need of reinforcements, the Cubs selected the contract of right-hander Gonzalez Germen and optioned outfielder Matt Szczur to Triple-A Iowa prior to Sunday's series final against San Diego.

To make room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Jacob Turner was moved to the 60-day disabled list.

Germen will be available out of the Cubs bullpen Sunday.

Five Cubs relievers pitched in Saturday's 11-inning win over San Diego: Jason Motte, Pedro Strop, Phil Coke, Hector Rondon and Zac Rosscup. Manager Joe Maddon said prior to Sunday's game he wasn't sure who'd be available out of the bullpen until he talked to pitching coach Chris Bosio.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

"Mostly when you’re in a bind with your bullpen that means you’ve been playing pretty good, that you have been in a lot of close games and you’ve probably won some," Maddon said. "Rested bullpens are normally the residue of bad play so it’s a good thing/bad thing. You have to balance it up, but you have to take care of the guys and give them some rest also"

The 27-year-old Germen appeared in four games with Triple-A Iowa, firing 4 2/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and three walks. Over 64 2/3 major league innings with the Mets between 2013 and 2014, Germen owns a 4.31 ERA with one save, 64 strikeouts, 30 walks and eight home runs allowed.

Szczur has appeared in eight games for the Cubs this season with two hits, three walks and two strikeouts in 15 plate appearances.

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

1020_albert_almora.jpg
USA TODAY

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

Albert Almora Jr. joins Kelly Crull on the Cubs Talk Podcast to weigh in on a variety of topics, including his budding bromance with rumored Cubs target Manny Machado, his expanded role and how he spends his time off away from the ballpark.

Plus, Almora has a surprise pick for the organization’s unsung hero, stating the Cubs would’ve never won the World Series without this guy.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."