Cubs

Miguel Montero nearing return to Cubs lineup

Miguel Montero nearing return to Cubs lineup

The Cubs lineup could see a boost this weekend with Miguel Montero's return to Chicago.

The veteran catcher has been on the disabled list the last couple weeks with a back issue and has been on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa this week.

"[He'll be back] real soon," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Friday's game. "He's doing real well. He and I were texting [Thursday] night. Any day now."

Montero got off to a little bit of a slow start at the plate (.649 OPS through his first 13 games), but the Cubs could use his pitch-framing and defense behind the plate in an important series with the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend at Wrigley Field. 

Montero's left-handed bat wouldn't necessarily play well Friday or Saturday against a pair of Pirates southpaws (Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke) and Sunday will be David Ross catching with Jon Lester throwing, so the Cubs have no need to rush Montero right now.

The Cubs have given Montero 10 at-bats already in the minors to help get his timing and rhythm back as he hasn't seen live pitching since April 24.

Maddon acknowledged the Cubs aren't focused on the number of at-bats anymore with Montero, but more so playing it safe to ensure this back issue doesn't crop up again down the line.

"We just had to assess what we thought, more than anything," Maddon said. "He's fine. He's ready to roll.

"You always have to wait until the day after [action] to make sure. After a game or a situation, they go, 'Oh, I feel really good.' And then the next morning, they wake up and it's no good. But everything seems to be in order."

Tim Federowicz was called up to take Montero's roster spot and the 28-year-old has been splitting catching duties with Ross in Montero's absence.

Maddon has been impressed with the way Federowicz has performed in his time in Chicago, particularly pointing out his history with Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello from their time together with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011.

"Real comfortable with him," Maddon said. "I think he's done a great job. It's a carry-over from spring training - he played well in spring training. 

"I'd never been around him before. I didn't know he worked that good of an at-bat, also. He's really swung the bat well. He's caught well and thrown well. The pitchers like him.

"Him and Borz have worked together in the past, so there's a real comfort there in terms of gameplanning. He's been outstanding."

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

The changing of the guard continues for the Cubs this offseason. 

After the team hired a new hitting coach yesterday, it was reported today that they're losing a front office member: 

Rehman, who has been with the Cubs in the same position for the last seven years, will reportedly head up the Rangers' analytics department. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rehman's role was " evaluating existing systems, and recognizing and applying solutions in an effort to create competitive advantages for the organization." 

All reports indicate that he'll be doing similar analytic-based work with the Rangers. 

Chili Davis after being ousted by Cubs: 'There were multiple players in there I didn't connect with'

Chili Davis after being ousted by Cubs: 'There were multiple players in there I didn't connect with'

Chili Davis didn't go all scorched earth on the Cubs in a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, but he had quite a lot to say after being ousted by the organization after just one year as the hitting coach.

The Cubs made Davis the scapegoat for an offense that faded down the stretch, struggling for the entire second half and scoring just 1 run in three of the final four games of the year.

When he was hired a year ago, Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon talked up Davis' impressive resume that includes a 19-year MLB career, two separate stints as a successful hitting coach with the Oakland A's and Boston Red Sox and a philosophy that they hoped would withstand the test of time in the game today, preaching more contact and using the opposite field.

Throughout the 2018 season, Maddon often commended Davis for his ability to communicate with players, particularly in the area of mental approach to each at-bat.

Now that the dust has settled a bit on his firing, Davis felt he had some issues getting through to some Cubs players.

I learned a lot this year," Davis told the Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer. "I learned that the next situation I get in, before I say yes to a job, I need to make sure I know the personnel I'll be dealing with in the clubhouse. I hope the next guy connects better with the players, because I felt that there were multiple players there I didn't connect with. It wasn't that I didn't try; it just wasn't there.

The Cubs hired Anthony Iapoce as their new hitting coach Monday afternoon. Iapoce comes over from the Rangers and has a direct link to John Mallee, who was the Cubs' hitting coach for three seasons before being let go when Davis became available last winter. 

Iapoce also spent three seasons with the Cubs as a special assistant to the GM, overseeing the organization's minor-league hitting from 2013-15. Presumably, he found a way over those years to connect with the Cubs' top young hitting prospects — guys like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras that are now leading the big-league lineup.

Hopefully he has better success at this than I did," Davis said of Iapoce in the Sun-Times article. "But regardless of who's there, certain players there are going to have to make some adjustments because the game's changed and pitchers are pitching them differently. They're not pitching to launch angles and fly balls and all that anymore. They're pitching away from that. They're going to have to make that adjustment whether I'm there or not.

Davis had a whole lot more to say on the matter and I encourage you to read the full interview with Wittenmyer over at ChicagoSunTimes.com.

A healthy Bryant very likely could've changed everything for Davis and the Cubs' 2018 lineup. Contreras hitting like he's capable of in the second half would've made a huge difference, as well.

But the end result is a finish to the 2018 campaign that was viewed universally as a disappointment — particularly in the offensive department — and the Cubs are left with their third different hitting coach in three seasons.