NEW YORK – Welcome to The Show, Jeimer Candelario, meet Noah Syndergaard’s 100-mph fastball.
That’s how Candelario made his big-league debut during Sunday afternoon’s 14-3 loss to the New York Mets, joining the Cubs for the end of a four-game sweep at Citi Field and possibly the low point of the season so far.
Reacting to yet another injury – and maybe hoping for a jolt to their sluggish offense – the Cubs promoted an intriguing switch-hitting prospect from Triple-A Iowa and moved outfielder Chris Coghlan to the disabled list with a strained right rib cage.
Candelario began his age-22 season at Double-A Tennessee, earned an invitation to the All-Star Futures Game and hit .333 with a 1.052 OPS through his first 25 games at the Triple-A level.
“Dream come true,” Candelario said after starting at third base, striking out three times and getting his first hit off Syndergaard with a seventh-inning single.
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Candelario was born in New York, grew up in the Dominican Republic and had a big group of friends and family watching him at Citi Field. His father had been a minor-league pitcher in the Houston Astros organization.
Blocked by corner infielders Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Candelario’s name will be floated in trade speculation leading up to the Aug. 1 deadline. But the Cubs didn’t green-light Tommy La Stella’s return this weekend, and have been vague about where Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler are at in their recoveries from hamstring injuries, creating an opening for Candelario.
“Whatever they decide,” Candelario said, “I’m just here to help the team win. I can’t think about those things. I just got to work hard. And whatever opportunity they give to me, take advantage.”
As much as Joe Maddon appreciates young talent – and left spring training thinking some midseason answers could come from within the organization – the manager also didn’t envision Albert Almora Jr., Willson Contreras and Candelario all getting promoted before the Fourth of July. Attrition partially explains why the Cubs have lost 10 of their last 14 games heading back to Wrigley Field after a disappointing three-city road trip.
“We’re not at our normal DEFCON right now,” Maddon said. “If we had been playing at full guerrilla mode, I might be a little bit more concerned. But I’m taking everything into consideration. I’m not upset at all or concerned. We’re going to continue to get better. We’re going to get on another good run. I’m certain of that.”