Cubs

Cubs waiting to see if Schwarber is ready to catch Arrieta

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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.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

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AP

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: