Cubs waiting to see if Schwarber is ready to catch Arrieta


Cubs waiting to see if Schwarber is ready to catch Arrieta

ATLANTA — For now, the Cubs would rather have veteran David Ross catch ace right-hander Jake Arrieta than rookie Kyle Schwarber.

That’s the case for Sunday’s series finale against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, with Ross — who’s in his 14th major league season and caught Jon Lester's bizarre no-hit bid Saturday — behind the plate against All-Star right-hander Shelby Miller. On paper, the pitching matchup would seem to be one of the situations manager Joe Maddon said could get Schwarber into the lineup with Arrieta on the mound.

But it didn't happen Sunday, not three games into Schwarber's second stint in The Show.

“As Schwarber gets more comfortable, if the matchup is impressively bad and you’re more comfortable with Schwarber behind the plate, then you catch him with Arrieta,” Maddon said. “Just give it a chance to play out a little bit, that’s what I’m looking at.”

[RELATED: Outfield not part of Cubs' plan for Schwarber just yet]

The 24-year-old Miller dominates right-handed hitters, holding them to a .190 batting average and .531 OPS with one home run through 18 starts entering Sunday. Left-handers have had considerably more success off Miller, hitting .265 with a .724 OPS and three home runs.

Ross, a right-handed hitter, has been better against right-handed pitching (.622 OPS vs. a .405 OPS off left-handers), though Sunday's game would seem like a good opportunity to get Schwarber’s left-handed bat in the lineup against a guy with a 2.38 ERA. But Schwarber will have to catch at least one of Arrieta’s between-starts side sessions before Maddon will consider playing him in a future situation like this.

While Schwarber didn’t start the final two games of the Braves series — after going 3-4 with a double Friday night — Maddon said he’ll have a chance to start the next three days in Cincinnati with Clayton Richard, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and a TBA call-up starting Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (a doubleheader).

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Beyond getting some work in with Arrieta, though, Maddon said Schwarber doesn’t have to show him anything to earn the added playing time. It’s more about Ross having 14 years of experience and Schwarber having played only eight games in the majors.

“That’s one of those things I don’t really worry about in a sense — I watch and try to pick out the right time to do it,” Maddon said. “You talk to Schwarbs, you watch him, you watch how he’s catching everybody else, what’s the comfort level look like. And then I’ll try to make a good call on it.”

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening


Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.