Cubs

Cubs place Daniel Descalso on 10-day injured list, activate newly-acquired Derek Holland

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USA TODAY

Cubs place Daniel Descalso on 10-day injured list, activate newly-acquired Derek Holland

The revolving door that is the Cubs second base picture continues to spin.

Saturday, the Cubs placed infielder Daniel Descalso on the 10-day injured list with a sprained left ankle (retroactive to July 24). In a corresponding move, the team added Derek Holland, whom they acquired from the Giants on Friday, to the active roster.

Descalso’s Cubs career got off to a solid start, as he hit .243/.338/.386 in 70 April at-bats. His playing time has decreased in each month since then, however, with Descalso’s offensive performance also declining as well. From May 1-July 23, he’s holds a .107/.224/.131 slash line across 84 at-bats.

On the one hand, it can’t be easy for Descalso — who's hitting .181 in 160 at-bats this season — to work through his struggles at the plate when he’s receiving such a limited number of at-bats. The 32-year-old last started on June 30 and has started 19 games since May 1.

On the other hand, Descalso’s offensive shortcomings have made him a less desirable starting second base option for the Cubs. This, combined with the fact that the Cubs have an absurd amount of players capable of playing the position. Descalso, Addison Russell, David Bote, Robel Garcia and Ben Zobrist have each made at least 10 appearances at second base this season.

Russell was sent down to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, but the Cubs recalled Ian Happ on Friday. Happ played 134 2/3 innings at second base with Iowa this season, and manager Joe Maddon said mentioned how it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Happ to play there with the Cubs.

"He asked a good question — he wanted to know, game-in-progress, 'would you ever put me in the infield?'" Maddon said on Friday in Milwaukee. "I said, 'I don't know that, but with five bench players right now, maybe not out of the chute. But like I also told him, if you're losing the game and you're trying to win the game, you'll do anything."

Happ will primarily play outfield with the Cubs, so he’s not necessarily jeopardizing Descalso’s playing time any more than the aforementioned players. However, Descalso was in a precarious position before Happ’s promotion. The latter’s presence doesn’t necessarily help his playing time situation.

Holland holds a 5.90 ERA in 31 games (seven starts) this season, but he posted a 0.68 ERA in 10 relief outings (13 1/3 innings) from June 24-July 18. After allowing a run on July 20, the Giants designated him for assignment the next day. He's joining the Cubs bullpen following a heartwrenching 3-2 loss to the Brewers on Friday.

The Cubs used Kyle Ryan, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Pedro Strop and Rowan Wick in the game, so there's a good chance Holland gets into Saturday's game, if the situation calls for it.

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David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote put his sweet, sweet swing to special use on Tuesday.

Prior to the Cubs’ Cactus League game vs. the Rockies, a couple of Cubs fans asked Bote to partake in their gender reveal. The duo brought a powder-infused baseball, asking Bote to take a hack to reveal whether they’re having a boy or girl.

The father-to-be tossed the ball to Bote, who smashed it open to unleash a pink cloud of powder — signifying the couple will have a girl. The 26-year-old infielder — who has two daughters himself — threw his arms in the air to celebrate.

No matter how you feel about gender reveals, you’ve gotta love the uniqueness of this one and Bote partaking in the special moment. Here’s to a healthy life for the baby! 

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Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes and failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who has struggled immensely at the plate for the last season and a half.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit that he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

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Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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