Cubs

Maddon: Javy Baez has to get used to not playing every day with Cubs

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Maddon: Javy Baez has to get used to not playing every day with Cubs

This isn't like last September.

The Cubs didn't call up Javier Baez just to pencil him in at second base and the two-hole in the order every single game.

As manager Joe Maddon has said on several occassions - the time for development is over. The Cubs are in a pennant race and they need wins at just about any cost.

[RELATED - Cubs letting Kyle Schwarber 'chill' for a few days with rib injury]

Of course, Maddon also understands it can be a difficult adjustment for a guy like Baez, who is used to playing every day. That empathy part of what makes Maddon so popular with his players.

"It's a little bit different for him, there's no question," Maddon said. "But this is a different moment for a lot of our guys. It's September; we have a really solid chance for playoffs. It's not about anybody right now - it's about the Cubs. That's what guys have to get used to right now.

"Moving forward, he's going to be an everyday player. There's no question. As we move this thing to next year and the year after, you'll see him play on a consistent basis.

"But for right now, he has to figure out how to be ready sporadically sometimes, even in-game."

Baez was in the lineup Friday, hitting sixth and playing second base. It was his second start in three games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa when rosters expanded Tuesday.

Maddon said he just liked the matchup with Baez against Diamondbacks rookie Zack Godley and Baez rewarded his manager's faith with three hits - including a home run - and a bases-loaded walk.

The Cubs also got Tommy La Stella back from injury recently and Starlin Castro is coming off a month in which he appeared to turn a corner at the plate, hitting .296 with a .752 OPS in August.

That means Maddon has three solid options at second base for the season's final four weeks. He wants to play La Stella - a left-handed hitter - against right-handed starters and Castro against some lefties.

[MORE - Javier Baez returns to Cubs with something to prove]

But Maddon also raved about Baez's glovework in the infield and said he's just trying to play the best matchups on a daily basis with the lineup.

"Right now, I'm really into defense a lot," Maddon said. "I feel really good about his defense. You might see him at third base, too."

Baez played nine games at third base at Triple-A Iowa this season and Maddon admitted his versatility can mean pushing Kris Bryant to the outfield - especially with Kyle Schwarber out injured - and allowing La Stella and Castro more time at second base.

Baez also said Tuesday he brought his outfield glove to Chicago  - "just in case" - but it doesn't appear as if the Cubs have any intention of playing him there this season.

Maddon didn't declare his Saturday lineup yet, but after Friday's game, he conceded to the fact that both Baez and Castro would probably be in against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray for the second game of the series, which could mean Baez at third base.

Cubs not concerned after another back issue for Anthony Rizzo

Cubs not concerned after another back issue for Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs entered play Sunday 1.5 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central with exactly five weeks of action to play. 

So now would be an awful time for the Cubs to lose one of their best players and a key to their offense for an extended period of time.

But the organization wasn't overly concerned about Anthony Rizzo's back prior to Sunday's series finale with the Nationals at Wrigley Field, a game in which he was not in the lineup (Ian Happ started at first base instead).

Rizzo was forced out of Saturday's game in the fifth inning with mid-back tightness and this is far from the first time the All-Star first baseman has dealt with back issues. He missed four games in mid-May with a back problem and needed a trip to the injured list in April of last season for the same reason.

But this instance isn't necessarily related to the others.

"A little bit different spot, he said, so we're not as concerned," Joe Maddon relayed Sunday morning. "It's normally in just a little bit of a different spot. When I talked to him [Saturday], Anthony was pretty optimistic. I'll just wait and see what [trainers] say."

Maddon also said Rizzo was still pretty sore/stiff Sunday morning before receiving treatment from the Cubs medical staff. Barring a "miracle cure," the manager didn't see any way he would insert Rizzo into Sunday's game, even as a pinch-hitter.

The Cubs only had three position players on the bench for the last week as they rolled nine deep in the bullpen. That left them in a bit of a pickle for Saturday's game when Rizzo exited early, but to make up for it Sunday, they called David Bote back up to the big leagues and put reliever Derek Holland on the 10-day IL with a left wrist contusion.

Rizzo and the Cubs have the benefit of an off-day Monday to help aid his recovery. But this inconsistent lineup could really use his bat every day, especially over the next week with three games against the Mets in New York (against Marcus Stroman, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard) before the Brewers come into Wrigley for a four-game set.

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

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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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