Cubs

Outfield not part of Cubs’ plan for Kyle Schwarber just yet

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Outfield not part of Cubs’ plan for Kyle Schwarber just yet

ATLANTA — As expected, Kyle Schwarber wasn’t in the Cubs lineup Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, with David Ross catching left-handed starter Jon Lester. Manager Joe Maddon said his first thought is to hold Schwarber out Sunday when right-hander Jake Arrieta starts, too, though he'll re-consider it tomorrow given the 22-year-old has 11 hits in 26 major league at-bats.

The Cubs will ease Schwarber into his role as the team’s primary catcher with Miguel Montero (sprained thumb) on the disabled list. Maddon said Friday that Schwarber would be available to catch any starter not named Lester or Arrieta, with Ross serving as Lester's personal catcher and Arrieta having a repertoire the Cubs don't want the 2014 first-round pick handling yet.

But what the organization won’t do is play him in the outfield to keep his bat in the lineup — at least not yet.

[MORE: Cubs will give Kyle Schwarber a ‘soft landing’ at catcher]

“I don’t want to skip forward too quickly,” Maddon said. “There’s a plan in place. Let’s work the plan.”

Maddon doesn’t want to heap too many responsibilities on Schwarber too soon, which is partly why having him play outfield isn’t viable at this point. He’ll have to take some fly balls on days he’s not catching — a small, heavy thunderstorm rolled through Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, wiping out any chance for bench coach Dave Martinez to work with Schwarber in the outfield — before Maddon will feel comfortable considering sporadically moving him off catcher.

The Cubs have a solid defense, too, ranking fifth in team Ultimate Zone Rating. The left field platoon of Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia has combined to play above-average defense while Schwarber hasn’t played the outfield since spending 36 games in left last year.

And too, Maddon likes what Coghlan (.245/.341/.407, 1.6 WAR) and Denorfia (.301/.339/.381, 0.5 WAR) have shown offensively. Coghlan is third on the team with 1.6 WAR, for what it’s worth.

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“If there’s a left center fielder, that’d be okay,” Maddon laughed. “But the other guys have done really well too and they’re playing. Obviously if there was an injury involved that might precipitate moving that along a little sooner.”

Schwarber’s shown he can hit at the major league level and eventually the Cubs will have to find a permanent home for him. With the Cubs’ offense lagging for the better part of June and July (3.2 runs/game entering Saturday) the need for a hitting boost is clear.

But the Cubs are still looking at the big picture with Schwarber. Whatever decisions are made — whether that’s having him catch Arrieta or play the outfield — will be the result of a calculated process.

“It’s about what’s best for us and for him,” Maddon said. “We can not forget this guy’s still being developed. He’s being developed on a major league level.”

Marlon Byrd on PED suspensions: 'You can make a mistake on purpose or on accident'

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NBC Sports Chicago

Marlon Byrd on PED suspensions: 'You can make a mistake on purpose or on accident'

 

Six players on Major League Baseball rosters have been suspended twice for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Marlon Byrd, one of the players in that infamous group, has to live with that for the rest of his career. The 40-year-old talked about that on Baseball Night in Chicago on NBC Sports Chicago.

“Anybody that goes through this, it’s a part of their career,” Byrd said. “That’s it. This is a part of my career. Not testing positive once, but testing positive twice. I will always have to answer the question because it is a part of my 15-year major league career and always will. The easiest way to answer it is to tell the truth that way you can do it over and over and over again. Once you start telling fibs or telling lies you start holding onto something that’s not the truth.”

Byrd signed a 3-year deal with the Cubs ahead of the 2010 season. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in April of 2012. Byrd’s first suspension came on June 25, 2012. He was suspended for 50 games. In 2016, he received his second suspension on June 1 and retired after the suspension.

Byrd was asked about his view on the recent Robinson Cano suspension, which will cost the Mariners’ second baseman 80 games. He spoke from personal experience when explaining what can happen with PED use.

“You can make a mistake on purpose or on accident,” Byrd said. “Some guys make it on accident. Some guys make it on purpose. There’s nobody up here that can talk about this better than I can because I’ve done it twice. One time on purpose, one time on accident. To speak for another man and what he went through is tough. Did Robinson do it or not? Only he knows. Nobody else is going to know, but what you have to do is take your suspension.”

Albert Almora Jr. knows he doesn't need to sell the Cubs to 'cousin' Manny Machado

Albert Almora Jr. knows he doesn't need to sell the Cubs to 'cousin' Manny Machado

Albert Almora Jr. has known Manny Machado all his life.

They're so close, they call each other "cousins", refer to the other's parents as "aunt" and "uncle" and Almora was a groomsman in Machado's wedding.

So with all these rumors about the Cubs potentially being the frontrunner to trade for Machado this summer, should we start referring to Almora-Machado as the better potential bromance in Chicago over Bryant-Harper?

The Cubs would have to acquire Machado in a trade this summer, but they undoubtedly wouldn't do that unless they thought they could sell him on staying here long-term when he reaches free agency after the 2018 season.

But Almora doesn't think he or the Cubs need to sell anything to Machado.

"That's the great thing about this organization," Almora said. "There's nothing that needs to be said. Guys want to play for us because we're the team to be and we have a lot of fun here. We have a great group of guys."

The Cubs have put together a heck of a resume in recent years, to the point where one reporter asked Kris Bryant if they're almost at the New England Patriots level of success.

That's taking things a few steps too far given the Cubs have won just one championship. But they have made it to the National League Championship Series three years in a row, they lead baseball in regular season wins since the start of the 2015 season and they have arguably the best young core in baseball.

It wouldn't have to take much convincing to want to join the same lineup as Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Javy Baez and others while playing for a manager (Joe Maddon) that has no rules as long as you hustle down the line and a front office that is among the best in baseball at accomodating players' families and off-field lives.

Oh yeah, and then there's the whole Wrigley Field effect and a fanbase that is as national and passionate as they come.

Almora insists he doesn't talk to his "cousin" about coming to the Cubs and maintained he loves the current roster and has said all year they have a special team.

That being said, Almora did concede to how awesome it would be if he and Machado could win the World Series someday on the same team.

They used to dream up that situation in their backyards as kids and when Almora got a ring with the Cubs in 2016, he jokingly rubbed it in Machado's face as they worked out together in Miami.

"We used to play a game," Almora said. "I used to throw him a basketball. He used to hit it with a wood bat and we'd put scenarios in my backyard — World Series and stuff like that. 

"But obviously we never sat down and talked about it seriously as kids. Now that we're adults, that would be special."

Machado is clearly in the discussion as one of the very best players in baseball while Almora is just now earning everyday playing time. But the Cubs centerfielder wouldn't concede to the fact that his bestie was better than him as children.

"Between Manny and myself? He was older than I am," Almora said, smiling. "I don't know, I'm not gonna say he was better than me."