Cubs

The return of Javier Baez and how Cubs are prepared for next wave of injuries

The return of Javier Baez and how Cubs are prepared for next wave of injuries

The Cubs are looking at internal solutions and hoping for strength in numbers with Kyle Schwarber sidelined for the rest of the season. Javier Baez could be on deck.

Baez hit in the middle of Triple-A Iowa’s lineup on Monday night, with Cubs manager Joe Maddon saying the organization would like to see him get around 20 or 25 at-bats before joining the big-league club.

That could happen as soon as this week’s opening homestand at Wrigley Field — or once Baez gets his timing down after a left thumb injury prevented him from making the Opening Day roster.

The Cubs plan to move Baez around the infield and the outfield with Iowa, grooming another versatile player to help fill the void with Schwarber awaiting surgery to repair the torn ACL and LCL in his left knee.

That’s how Theo Epstein’s front office built this flexible roster over the years, preparing for worst-case scenarios with a Rookie of the Year who can play third base and all over the outfield (Kris Bryant), an All-Star super-utility guy (Ben Zobrist) and a bullpen stocked with four swingmen (Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Clayton Richard, Travis Wood).

“Overcoming adversity is really all about character and looking at it the right way,” Epstein said, “instead of sulking and getting down and thinking about what you don’t have. It’s seeing it as an opportunity to overcome something, an opportunity for someone else to step up, an opportunity to really prove your mettle as a club.

“Because injuries are not a variable in this game. They’re a constant. You just don’t know who. You don’t know how long. You don’t know what type of injury. But you know you’re going to have injuries. So if you don’t prepare for them, then shame on you.”

That’s what the Cubs had in mind when they signed Dexter Fowler to a one-year, $13 million contract in late February — or multiple news cycles after the Baltimore Orioles were supposed to be finalizing a three-year, $35 million deal with Maddon’s you-go, we-go leadoff guy/outfielder.

“Dexter’s pretty much been the guy that’s gotten this whole thing rolling,” Maddon said. “We have so many great guys within our support group. It’s obvious with the guys that came in. You’re talking about Jason (Heyward) and ‘Zo’ and what they’ve already done to this particular group.

“These guys (understand) that we can survive. They realize that people are going to have to pick each other up.”

The Cubs also look at Iowa and already think Albert Almora could be a plus defender in center field, with Willson Contreras projected to be a frontline catcher in the big leagues.

As Maddon said: “I really believe you’re going to see a lot of guys (who) are going to come up from the minor leagues and do equally as well (and) surprise a lot of people.”

The Cubs can’t afford to lose Anthony Rizzo, an MVP presence in the middle of their lineup and new clubhouse and a Gold Glove-level defender at first base.

Schwarber’s promotion from the minor leagues helped transform the Cubs into a 97-win team last year. He got a loud ovation when he used a crutch to climb the dugout steps and join his teammates on the field before Monday’s home opener against the Cincinnati Reds.

Maybe the Cubs will have lightning strike again this summer.

“We hate to lose Kyle,” Epstein said. “It changes who we are a little bit, because he’s unique. But we’re built to withstand some injuries and to keep fighting and to have the next guy step up.

“That’s why you have depth. That’s why you have talented players waiting for that opportunity. I think our guys will rise to this challenge.”

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below: