Cubs

Miguel Montero’s future unclear as Schwarber sticks with Cubs

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Miguel Montero’s future unclear as Schwarber sticks with Cubs

MILWAUKEE — Cubs manager Joe Maddon confirmed the obvious: Kyle Schwarber is here to stay.

That keeps the fast-track catcher on a collision course with Miguel Montero, a two-time All-Star about to begin his rehab assignment with Double-A Tennessee. The Cubs can’t send Schwarber back to Triple-A Iowa when he’s hitting .338 with a .997 OPS.

“We want his bat in the lineup,” Maddon said even before Schwarber had a big impact on Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “He’s done a nice job behind the plate, too. He’s shown versatility by playing in the outfield.

“I’d like to believe he’s here for awhile.”

That will leave Montero in another awkward position, with the Cubs already carrying David Ross to be Jon Lester’s personal catcher, a clubhouse leader and a quasi-coach (with another guaranteed season on his contract for 2016).

[MORE CUBS: Why didn’t Theo Epstein make a splash at the trade deadline?] 

Remember, it took until late May before the Cubs finally traded catcher Welington Castillo to the Seattle Mariners. Castillo wound up getting flipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team that cleared payroll space by trading Montero to the Cubs for two pitching prospects at the winter meetings.

“Well, at this point, to be honest, (with) the way the season started, I’m not surprised about anything,” Montero said.

Montero speaks directly and says what’s on his mind. The Cubs wanted that edge to push their pitching staff and change their clubhouse culture.

The Cubs still owe Montero $28 million across the next two seasons, which would make him an expensive part for a three-catcher rotation (or a potential trade chip to create more financial flexibility).

“Of course, when I came here, I expected to play every day,” Montero said. “I don’t think you want to pay that much money to a guy to bench him.

“But that’s not my job. My job is to play and do what I’m capable of doing.”

At the time the Cubs acquired Montero, Schwarber had only played 72 games in professional baseball after getting drafted No. 4 overall out of Indiana University last year.

[RELATED: Starlin Castro relieved the trade deadline is over] 

There are still questions about whether or not Schwarber can be the long-term answer at catcher, but he has to be in the discussion about next year’s Opening Day roster.

Schwarber got a taste in June as a designated hitter for interleague play and took advantage of another opportunity when Montero sprained his left thumb just before the All-Star break. 

“This is a business, man, so anything can happen,” Montero said. “I don’t know what they’re thinking. I don’t know what they’re going to do. So like I said before, my job is just to come here and compete.

“Whenever I’m in the lineup, do my best. And if I’m not, try to help my teammates.

“Of course, I would like to be in the lineup. But I can’t control that.”

Schwarber launched his fourth home run on Saturday night, but his game-changing sequence came with two outs in the third inning. Schwarber worked an 11-pitch at-bat, lining Matt Garza’s 96 mph fastball into center field for a single. That patience combined with Chris Coghlan’s walk helped set up Anthony Rizzo’s three-run homer.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

“I’m going to keep working my butt off to stay up here,” Schwarber said.

At the age of 32, Montero still feels like he can catch every day, once he gets healthy again. He accounted for at least 1,000 innings behind the plate in each of the previous four seasons. He’s hitting .230 with 10 homers and 32 RBI this year.

It should also be pointed out that Montero worked closely with Castillo and developed a reputation as a good leader for the Diamondbacks, looking after young players from Latin America, taking them to Phoenix Suns games and out to dinner.

Montero would even watch minor-league games during spring training, believing prospects should feel comfortable and part of the organization.

“That’s not going to change,” Montero said, framing his relationship with Schwarber. “It ain’t his fault. So why am I going to take it out on him? It ain’t his fault. I want him to be the best that he can be. And he’s got the potential to be really good.”

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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