Cubs

Cubs: What’s next for Jeimer Candelario?

Cubs: What’s next for Jeimer Candelario?

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs didn’t option out Jeimer Candelario so that they could showcase him in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in San Diego and ramp up the speculation leading into the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

Major League Baseball had already found a replacement for Candelario, who made his earlier-than-anticipated big-league debut Fourth of July weekend against the New York Mets and Noah Syndergaard’s 100-mph heat.

The Cubs wanted a different presence, and they got it by calling up infielder Munenori Kawasaki from Triple-A Iowa before Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Kawasaki bowed to reporters in the clubhouse and wore an oxygen mask that looked like something out of “The Silence of the Lambs.” When Fox Sports broadcaster CJ Nitkowski, an old teammate in Japan, asked how his English is now, Kawasaki replied: “Horses---.”

“It’s the experience factor,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You can see that Candy probably needs a little bit more seasoning at this point. And that’s fine. I love the kid. I think he’s going to be a very, very good player.”

The question is: Where?

It’s hard to see Candelario breaking through the layers of position players already established with the Cubs, making him an interesting trade chip this summer. As a corner infielder, Candelario will be blocked by All-Stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, who together could be middle-of-the-order hitters here through the 2021 season, and the Cubs will have more moving parts with Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber.

“Just by being here, that’s going to help a lot,” Maddon said after watching Candelario go 1-for-11 with two walks and five strikeouts during his first week in The Show. “He went from Double-A to Triple-A to the big leagues already this year, so that’s a lot of movement.

“What he did here now — got a couple at-bats, played some defense, made a couple plays, was in a big-league clubhouse — all that stuff counts.

“How far away is he? I would say ... go back to Triple-A, kill Triple-A for a bit, he’s not far off. He’s somebody that may be able to help you by the end of the season with a good run on his part.

“Just getting to know him, I think the most important thing was that he saw this and felt this. I don’t think he will be as impressed with it the next time.”

Here are some selling points if the Cubs need to buy pitching: Candelario is a switch-hitter who put up a 1.052 OPS through his first 25 games at the Triple-A level. He has been an Arizona Fall League Rising Star. He has a reputation as a good defensive third baseman. He is bilingual after splitting his childhood between New York and the Dominican Republic. His father pitched in the minors for the Houston Astros. He is still only 22 years old.

“He’s really talented,” Maddon said. “I love his swing. He’s a calm kid. We just thought it was wise to get him back out and go play.”

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

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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).