Kyle Schwarber wants to return for Cubs-Cardinals showdown


Kyle Schwarber wants to return for Cubs-Cardinals showdown

ST. LOUIS – It still sounds doubtful Kyle Schwarber will be ready for this showdown at Busch Stadium, but the Cubs are feeling optimistic about his return from a strained rib cage.

“I’m not ruling it out,” Schwarber said before Monday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. “I want to be (back). But I don’t know how everything else is going to play out. My goal is to get back for a game or two this series.”

Schwarber felt good on Labor Day after going through a normal routine in the batting cage and playing catch with quality-assurance coach Henry Blanco.

The Cubs have been cautious with Schwarber, who became a late scratch from the lineup on Sept. 2 after feeling something while warming up in the Wrigley Field batting cage.

Schwarber said he doesn’t feel a grabbing sensation on his right side: “Not anymore.”

“I really can’t put a number on it, because the injury is so difficult,” Schwarber said. “You can feel good – and then the next thing you know you reinjure yourself. It’s just kind of taking it day-by-day and trying to get back to working in the motions and making sure I still feel comfortable at the same time.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the stretch run, Cubs fans!]

Schwarber has been a huge part of this second-half surge for a playoff contender, generating 12 homers, 35 runs scored and 32 RBI since the All-Star break. This is still the first full season of professional baseball for the catcher/outfielder the Cubs drafted No. 4 overall out of Indiana University last year.

Schwarber hasn’t yet experienced the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry up close and his big left-handed bat could be a difference-maker.

“I want to play right now,” Schwarber said. “This is going to be fun. That’s another reason I’m chomping at the bit to get back out here. It’s the Cardinals. Big series. Great stadium. Great fans.”

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.