Cubs prospect Albert Almora hoping to build off Team USA experience


Cubs prospect Albert Almora hoping to build off Team USA experience

Given the success of other Cubs prospects, it might be easy to see Albert Almora as something of a disappointment.

Since Almora was taken as the first Draft pick of the Theo Epstein era (sixth overall in 2012), he has watched 2013 and 2014 first-round picks Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber shoot up through the system and the two sluggers are now starring for the big-league team.

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But both Bryant and Schwarber were polished college bats and Almora - who was drafted out of high school - just turned 21 in April and re-entered the Double-A Tennessee lineup last week after a stint playing for Team USA in the Pan Am Games.

"It was an honor and a priviledge to put that jersey on," Almora told Tennessee Smokies broadcaster Mick Gillispie last week. "I had a lot of fun with them and met a lot of great guys and great teammates.

"I'm happy to be back. That was a great experience, but I'm ready to get back to the season."

Almora helped Team USA to the silver medal, falling to Canada in an extra-inning thriller in the Gold Medal Game.

Almora is struggling this season, hitting just .243 with a .286 on-base percentage and .645 OPS in 69 games in Double-A. The centerfielder has four homers and four stolen bases to go with 16 walks and 31 strikeouts.

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He was rated as the No. 38 prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2015 season and hopes his experience with Team USA can help him get his season back on track.

"I would think so. It was different playing for that," Almora told Gillispie. "It was just more - I don't know - it was a different mentality playing for that team.

"I'm gonna bring that back and keep that mentality going here and hopefully that helps change the way we're going."

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing


Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

David Bote's minor league stint didn't last long.

After demoting the 26-year-old to Triple-A Iowa on Monday, the Cubs recalled Bote on Sunday. In a corresponding move, the team placed Derek Holland (left wrist contusion) on the 10-day injured list.

Bote's return comes on the heels of Anthony Rizzo exiting Saturday's game due to mid-back tightness. Rizzo has dealt with back issues at various points in his career, missing four games in May this season with a similar ailment. 

The Cubs activated Steve Cishek off the injured list Tuesday, with the reliever filling Bote's vacancy on the 25-man roster. Thus, the Cubs had been playing with 14 pitchers and 11 position players for much of this week. Had they not recalled Bote, they Cubs would've had to play Sunday's game with just Victor Caratini and Tony Kemp available off the bench.

A similar situation occurred Saturday, as Rizzo exited the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. To save the Cubs from running out of position players, reliever Kyle Ryan took his at-bat in the sixth inning. Although he drew a walk, Ryan was thrown out attempting to take third base on a pitch that got away from Nationals catcher Yan Gomes.

Holland was hit by a comebacker in Tuesday's game against the Giants. Him landing on the injured list leaves Ryan as the lone lefty in the Cubs bullpen. The former holds a 5.74 ERA this season in 43 overall games between the Cubs and Giants, though that number is a more respectable 4.66 in 12 appearances with the Cubs.

Bote is hitting .257/.352/.429 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 106 games (268 at-bats) this season. 

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Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury


Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

In the midst of a second straight tough game against the Nationals, the Cubs were dealt another dose of bad news when Anthony Rizzo was forced out of the contest due to injury.

The first baseman was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth inning with what the team called mid-back tightness. The Cubs did not have an update on his status immediately following the 7-2 loss.

Rizzo had walked the previous inning and was stranded on third base when a full-count pitch to Ian Happ was called a strike:

Rizzo made an error in each of the first two innings of the game, throwing a ball into left field when second base wasn't being covered and then dropping a throw from Javy Baez to begin the second inning.

Rizzo has dealt with back issues throughout his career, including a stint where he missed four games in mid-May.

Jonathan Lucroy hit for Rizzo in the fifth inning and doubled home the Cubs' second run of the game. He stayed in to catch while Victor Cartaini moved from behind the plate to first base.

The Cubs were already operating with a short bench since they currently have a nine-man bullpen and they had already utilized Happ off the bench earlier in the game (he was later ejected after the controversial call).