Cubs

Cubs take the conservative approach, place Dexter Fowler on disabled list

Cubs take the conservative approach, place Dexter Fowler on disabled list

With a 12.5-game lead entering the final 10 days of June, the Cubs have some room to play things safe.

The Cubs are taking the conservative approach with Dexter Fowler's hamstring, placing the centerfielder on the disabled list and calling up right-handed pitcher Carl Edwards Jr.

Fowler injured his hamstring running out a groundball in the first inning of Saturday's Cubs victory. 

The Cubs took some time to determine a plan with Fowler before ultimately deciding to let him heal 100 percent rather than pushing it unnecessarily.

"We don't think it's a long-term injury," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said before Monday's game. "I hate to put timetables on it, but ultimately, we knew it was gonna be something that was gonna sideline him for at least the next handful of games, week or so."

Fowler may have been fine to play in a week to 10 days, but the Cubs didn't see any point in playing short-handed for that time.

"Dexter was great about it," Hoyer said. "I think he was in good spirits. I think he feels like he's gonna be 100 percent when this is over and I don't think he wanted to risk playing at 80-85 percent for too long. 

"He'll talk about it more, but ultimately, it was a prudent thing to do at this time in the season. We've got some options in the outfield we can play in the mean time."

One of those options is rookie Albert Almora Jr., a defensive whiz in the outfield who made his big-league debut just two weeks ago. 

He's played well during his short stint in the majors and the Cubs can also slide Jason Heyward over to center. Chris Coghlan and Matt Szczur can play the corner outfield spots, but Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist also provide some depth out there, giving Cubs manager Joe Maddon plenty of possibilities for lineup options.

Hoyer said the Cubs opted for Edwards to help out a tired bullpen a little bit, but they will continue to re-evaluate the roster. The Cubs are currently in a stretch where they don't have an off-day until the All-Star break starting July 11.

Tommy La Stella is rehabbing well from a hamstring issue that landed him on the disabled list last week and the Cubs believe he can go on a rehab assignment soon.

Jorge Soler has been dealing with a hamstring injury for the last couple weeks, as well, but still needs time before he can head out on a rehab stint.

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Expecting Jason Heyward to carry a team offensively would be thought as foolish just a few short months ago. But here in the middle of July, Heyward has turned into the offensive firestarter the Cubs have been seemingly missing since Dexter Fowler left. 

Heyward walked away from Thursday night's 9-6 win over the Cardinals tallying three hits, two RBI, two runs scored and his first stolen base of the year, as the 28-year-old outfielder continued to poke holes in the Cardinals defense. 

Twice Heyward was able to slip a ball between the 1st and 2nd basemen that off the bat looked like neither had a chance to make it through the right field side. Later, Heyward would battle through a lengthy at-bat, finally being rewarded with an opposite-field hit that drove in the game-tying run. 

"It just happened," Heyward explained. " [Carlos Martinez] is not going to give you a whole lot to do damage on throughout the game. I was able to get one pitch there and get a guy home." 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon mentioned Heyward and his ability to move the ball around the field and how it's helped him become an effective piece to this Cubs offense. So effective Heyward's batting average crept up to .290 after today's three-hit performance. 

Heyward credits his quick hands as the major tool he's utilized to create so many successful at-bats lately, which has allowed him to take advantage of certain pitches and punch them through for hits.

He's certainly not driving the ball for consistent power, but the approach has put Heyward on pace to match the 160 hit total he amassed with the Cardinals in 2015. 

"I feel like Joe's mindset on moving the ball is putting the ball in play when you got guys on base," said Heyward. "It keeps the line moving, regardless of the result." 

It might be crazy to think that Heyward's incredible turnaround this season might simply be attributed to putting the ball in play. But even just taking a look at Heyward's contact rates shows he's increased his contact on pitches outside the zone by roughly three percent.

Not a massive difference, but if Heyward's hands are truly giving him an edge at the plate, making contact with pitches that may not be a strike but are hittable pitches could explain the increased offense we are seeing now. 

"That's kinda the biggest thing," said Heyward. "The more good swings you take, the more hits you have a chance to get." 

Shooters shoot, and Heyward continues to shoot his shot and keep the Cubs offense chugging along.