PITTSBURGH — Trent Giambrone delivered one of the unlikeliest moments in a Cubs season full of them Wednesday night at PNC Park.
A former 25th-round draft pick called up because of dire need on a fast-thinning roster, the infielder came off the bench in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter to drive his first major-league hit to left field — and in the process help the Cubs set an unenviable National League record.
“That’s cool,” manager David Ross said of Giambrone’s hit after the unexpected call. “There’s a lot of things to smile about today, and on the back end of the season getting where we’ve been and the guys who are going to fill in some holes with guys down — I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Giambrone hit against the Pirates gave him a big-league average this season 826 points higher than his .174 mark in 72 Triple-A games for the Iowa Cubs.
But the bigger, rarer number associated with that moment was this: 65.
That’s the new National League record for players used in a season, the Cubs breaking a tie with this year’s Diamondbacks and Mets and the 2019 Giants.
And they might not be done yet. With Patrick Wisdom on the “injured list” for an apparent COVID-19 issue, the Cubs sent six more minor-leaguers to Pittsburgh to join the team Thursday to have them ready for possible emergency duty in the final days.
The MLB record for most players used is 67, by the 2019 Mariners.
Giambrone also was the 40th player to make his Cubs debut this season, extending another Cubs franchise record. The old record was 34 in 2013. Before that: 30 in 1902.
And he was the 13th to make his big-league debut this year, tying the Cubs’ franchise record set in 2012 — when teams could have as many as 40 active players on the roster in September (compared to 28 allowed now).
Ross takes at least a little bit more joy in Giambrone’s moment Wednesday than some others, if only because he got to know him some during his time as a front office assistant checking in on some minor-league spots before getting reacquainted in recent springs as the Cubs’ manager.
“He went through some things family side this spring training that you feel for, a guy starting his season like that,” Ross said, referring to Giambrone’s June start to the season after taking time with family following the death of his father.
“And then he goes through some adversity throughout the season and gets this callup here to fill some holes, and then gets his first big-league knock,” Ross said. That’s a big thing that nobody can ever take away from him. That’s a really big accomplishment. I’m super happy for him.”