Cubs VP Jason McLeod: No rush with Kyle Schwarber


Cubs VP Jason McLeod: No rush with Kyle Schwarber

In one year, the perception of Kyle Schwarber has changed so much that he’s gone from a reach at the No. 4 overall pick to someone who might help the Cubs as soon as this season.

But it doesn’t sound like you’ll see Schwarber in the lineup as the designated hitter on Tuesday night at Comerica Park, where the Cubs will open a two-game interleague series against the Detroit Tigers.

“There’s been no discussion other than the draft over this past week,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who runs scouting and player development. “That’s all I can say.”

McLeod joined the conference call on Monday night to discuss Ian Happ, the University of Cincinnati outfielder/second baseman the Cubs selected with the No. 9 overall pick, continuing a first-round run on polished college hitters that includes Kris Bryant (2013) and Schwarber (2014).

[MORE CUBS: Cubs take another position player in Ian Happ at No. 9]

Bryant is a leading candidate to become the National League’s Rookie of the Year, while Schwarber is killing it at Double-A Tennessee, hitting .324 with 12 homers, 37 RBIs and a 1.024 OPS.

Looking ahead to this stretch of seven games in 13 days in American League stadiums, Joe Maddon wouldn’t rule out the idea of promoting Schwarber for this “perfect window of opportunity.”

The Cubs manager wanted to discuss all options with Theo Epstein’s front office, and Schwarber would be a big left-handed bat already looking like a potential September call-up.

McLeod knows the Chicago media jumped on that story. It’s interesting to compare that buzz to the national skepticism that surrounded the Indiana University catcher/outfielder at this time last year, wondering if Schwarber would really stick behind the plate.

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“It goes back to us trusting our evaluations,” McLeod said. “Obviously, Kris Bryant’s been very good, and Kyle’s been very good. We’ve used the same process going into the draft this year.

“(Kyle’s) off to a great start. All we want him to do is focus on what he’s doing in Tennessee.”

The Cubs made a below-slot deal with Schwarber, giving him a $3.125 million signing bonus and creating more financial flexibility to acquire pitching later in the draft.

McLeod pointed to a recent highlight on, showing Schwarber throw out Byron Buxton, a mega-prospect for the Minnesota Twins.

“It’s funny,” McLeod said. “After that clip went up, I had a lot of writers who were doubting him last year (with) the pick tell me: ‘OK, we were wrong.’ So that always feels good. But right now, the focus is just Kyle being in Tennessee and continuing to improve. And we’ll see what happens down the road.”

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season. 

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Much has been made about Wednesday night's brawl between the Marlins and Braves, which started when Braves young star Ronald Acuna was nailed in the elbow with a 99 mph fastball from Jose Urena. The strangest part of the whole situation was that it seemed like Urena was unprovoked by Acuna or any of the Braves players prior to plunking the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.  

The ever wise Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was asked about the incident prior to Thursday's game, making it clear he felt plays like these needed to leave the game entirely. 

It was announced Thursday afternoon that Urena would be suspended just 6 games for intentionally throwing Acuna, which means the Marlins starter will likely only miss one game for trying to hurt Acuna. The good news is that Acuna did not sustain any serious injuries, but Joe Maddon is right there is no reason for people to be hurling nearly triple-digit fastballs at players. Whether provoked or not, intentionally throwing at players is something that needs to be phased out of the game, and its safe to assume Maddon would agree.