Miguel Montero heating up brings a dynamic presence to Cubs lineup

Miguel Montero heating up brings a dynamic presence to Cubs lineup

With all the talk about the Cubs boasting an AL East-style lineup, they've gotten this far offensively without much production from Miguel Montero.

The two-time All-Star catcher has a .762 career OPS, but has yet to really hit his stride at the plate after missing almost three weeks with a back injury.

Montero has an .873 OPS since returning from the back ailment in mid-May and sports a .350/.458/.600 slash line in his last seven games, including a homer his first time up Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Montero's big weekend helped raise his season OPS to .732 and showed how he can give this Cubs lineup a dynamic look when he's on his game.

"That really lengthens the lineup," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The other team has to definitely respect that after hitting behind [Ben] Zobrist made Zobrist a better hitter, especially when [Montero] hits a home run the first time at the plate.

"He's gonna do that. He's gonna hit home runs. I like that he's gotten his hits to the left-field side; he's gonna hit home runs to the left-field side here, also."

Maddon talked up Montero's receiving skills behind the plate and actually feels the veteran catcher is essentially at the latter end of spring training in terms of his swing thanks to that back injury.

The Cubs are currently carrying three catchers on their roster and can afford to be conservative with Montero's playing time, especially with David Ross (.828 OPS) discovering the Fountain of Youth. 

But Montero returning to form consistently could be a huge boost to a lineup that already features four likely 2016 All-Stars in Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.

Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis


Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis

Yu Darvish now has more trips to the disabled list in a Cubs uniform than wins.

The Cubs place their 31-year-old right-handed pitcher on the DL Saturday evening with right triceps tendinitis. The move is retroactive to May 23, so he may only have to miss one turn through the rotation.

In a corresponding move, Randy Rosario was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to provide Joe Maddon with another arm in the bullpen. Tyler Chatwood will start Sunday in Darvish's place.

Thanks to two off-days on the schedule last week, the Cubs should be fine with their rotation for a little while. Jon Lester could go on regular rest Monday, but the Cubs would need to make a decision for Tuesday given Kyle Hendricks just threw Friday afternoon.

That decision could mean Mike Montgomery moving from the bullpen to the rotation for a spot start, or it could be the promotion of top prospect Adbert Alzolay from Triple-A Iowa.

Either way, this is more bad news for Darvish, who has had a rough go of it since he signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs in February.

Between issues with the weather, the concern of arm cramps in his debut in Miami, leg cramps in Atlanta, a trip to the disabled list for the flu, trouble making it out of the fifth inning and now triceps tendinitis, it's been a forgettable two months for Darvish.

He is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 40 innings with the Cubs.

Over the course of 139 career starts, Darvish is 57-45 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings.