With the Cubs move to put Ryan Dempster on the 15-daydisabled and recalloutfielder Tony Campana, the Cubs arecontinuing the overhaul of a roster that is a very long way from competing for a championship. By activating Campana it likely spells the end of Marlon Byrd's tenure in Chicago with star prospect Brett Jackson close to being major league ready. Byrd will most likely be dealt to the Boston Red Sox who are looking for a short term fix while staroutfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is sidelined with an injury. What the Cubs get back in return for Byrd is a bonus because the impetus of the trade is moving whatever money the Cubs can in the deal and also opening up a spot for first Campana but eventually Jackson. Fans are clamoring for the call up of both Jackson and star first baseman Anthony Rizzo but delaying their recall makes sense on a number of levels. Why accelerate their service time which would cost the franchise potentially millions of dollars if both players perform at the levels being predicted for them?It was a lack of long term thinking that led to the call up of Starlin Castro a couple of years ago. By not delaying his call up to the big leagues just 4-6 weeks longer the Cubs accelerated his service time which based on his star play will end up costing the franchise approximately 8 million because it moved up his ability to take the team to arbitration. His outstanding play will force the Cubs to pay him far more than they would have had to had they delayed his call up. The decision to promote him before they should have was a decision made by the previous regime that was desperate to save their jobs. It was also a decision that stunned many others around the baseball world because it was incredibly short sighted. In addition, with the 2012 Cubs off to a 3-11 start there is no need to rush young players into a tough situation playing at Wrigley Field in less than ideal weather conditions. While fans are disappointed in the team and the start it was not unexpected by Epstein and Co. They knew how bad things were when they evaluated the organization and they were fully prepared to deal with the fallout of a bad baseball team. Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are extremely competitive men and brilliant baseball minds. They knew that rebuilding the Chicago Cubs was going to be a lengthy and painful process and they were prepared for it. But just like the fan base that doesn't mean they have to enjoy it.
What's the secret behind Albert Almora Jr.'s recent offensive resurgence?
It wasn't switching to an axe bat like Kris Bryant. It wasn't even a mechanical adjustment of any kind.
No, Almora has turned things around at the plate just because he has more of a belief in himself right now.
"This game is all about confidence," the Cubs centerfielder said. "It's a game of ups and downs. It's tough mentally, but the quicker you could get back to having that confidence, the better. It's kinda like tricking yourself."
Having 39,246 people demand a curtain call has to do wonders for your confidence.
Almora hit his first career grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning Wednesday night and was none too happy to oblige the packed house at Wrigley Field.
That blast was his fifth homer of the season, which ties the total he reached in all of last season.
Over the first 21 games of 2019, Almora was hitting just .182 with a .432 OPS and 0 extra-base hits in 61 plate appearances.
Then he pinch hit against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen on April 25 and smacked his first homer of the season. Since then, he's hitting .341 with a .966 OPS and 12 extra-base hits in 87 plate appearances.
So if the difference is confidence, is there a way to manufacture confidence? Like a "fake it until you make it" kind of thing?
"No, it's tough," Almora said. "It really is. Maybe some guys are really good at it. Defensively, it's a different type of confidence, because you can control more, but you can be confident at the plate and not have the results."
When Bryant started turning things around at the end of April, much was made about his switch to an axe bat. There's no doubt that change in weaponry perfectly correlated with Bryant's red-hot production at the plate over the last month, but even he downplayed the whole thing, using the idiom, "it's not the arrow, it's the Indian" on the Cubs' last homestand.
In talking about Bryant Tuesday night, all Joe Maddon discussed was the star player's confidence, saying he is "unconsciously confident" in every aspect of his game right now.
"It's just who I am — I feel like this is me as a baseball player," Bryant said. "I'm working counts, getting on base, baserunning, playing all over. When I'm doing that, I feel pretty confident, so I hope I can continue that."
Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce echoed Almora's sentiment that baseball is all about confidence and while mechanical changes can certainly help breed that confidence, the only real way to build it is with positive results on the field.
Obviously mechanics come into play all the time in professional baseball and there's no doubt Almora's and Bryant's physical mechanics are locked in at the moment.
But there's no substitute for confidence and there's no drill to work on something that isn't tangible and can't even be quantified.
"I don't know [how to build confidence]," Almora said. "I wish I had the answer. That's why this game is so hard. You just gotta battle and try to not ride that huge up-and-down roller coaster. Try to stay the same. I feel like just having a good attitude is a good part of it and I think it's something I'm trying to feed off of my teammates. I think I've been doing a really good job of just being happy no matter what."
This is Almora's fourth year in the big leagues and he's closing in on 1,100 plate appearances at this level. But he still doesn't feel like he's come anywhere close to mastering the Confidence Conundrum.
"No, because you wanna perform every year, so every year's different no matter what," Almora said. "I've had success hitting at the big-league level, but every year's a new challenge and every year you have challenges for yourself and for your team to win, obviously. It never gets easier."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream
The Cubs bullpen has been under the microscope recently as they've hit another rough patch.
With Pedro Strop on the injured list, Cubs relievers have combined for a 5.04 ERA and 1.72 WHIP over the last week, allowing 32 hits and 11 walks against only 15 strikeouts in 25 innings.
The Cubs are shaking things up, sending veteran left-hander Xavier Cedeno to the injured list with left wrist inflammation and promoting right-hander Rowan Wick from Triple-A Iowa.
"We had to get things straightened out out there," Joe Maddon said of the bullpen. "Cedeno's still not 100 percent right, so we made that move. Wick's up and he's been pitching really well. We liked him in spring training; he provides length if we need it also, so there were a lot of reasons to do it, but he was pitching well enough to be here, too."
The Cubs acquired Wick, 26, from the Padres back in November for minor leaguer Jason Vosler. Wick has pitched well in Triple-A Iowa this season — in 13 outings, he has a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP while striking out 25 batters in 19 innings.
Of his 13 appearances, 7 have been of a multi-inning variety and he hasn't allowed a run in his last 3 games (6.2 innings). He said a key to his success has been the ability to throw three different pitches for strikes and has been in a good flow lately of getting ahead in the count.
Wick made 10 appearances for the Padres in San Diego last year, sporting a 6.48 ERA in 8.1 innings. The results weren't what he wanted in the big leagues, but that experience is something he can rely on now.
"[I learned] that I can pitch here and that I belong," Wick said. "To be comofttable and hopefully pitch well."
Cedeno, 32, signed with the Cubs just before spring training started, but has been hampered by the same wrist issue all spring. He was first activated off the injured list less than two weeks ago and did not give up a run in 5 appearances, though he surrendered 4 hits and 3 walks in just 2 total innings of work.
With Wick in tow, the Cubs bullpen now looks like this:
Carl Edwards Jr.
Strop is working his way back from a hamstring injury and threw a 25-pitch bullpen Monday, so his return may not be far off.
Brandon Morrow resumed his throwing program Monday, as well, but is still weeks away from returning even in a best-case scenario.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream