Not much has gone right for the Cubs early on this season, but the decision to give 29-year-old career minor leaguer Bryan LaHair the starting job at first base is looking very good.
After knocking around Triple-A pitching for five-and-half seasons LaHair finally got his big break and has taken advantage in a huge way, hitting .390 with five homers, eight doubles, and a 1.251 OPS in 20 games.
He’ll come back down to earth eventually, of course, but LaHair hit .331 with 38 homers in 129 games at Triple-A last season and has a .528 slugging percentage in 653 total games at Triple-A.
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Dale Sveum deserve credit for giving LaHair a long-deserved chance that the previous regime was unlikely to provide and it’ll be interesting to see what the Cubs do if first base prospect Anthony Rizzo continues to push for a promotion to the majors with a strong performance at Triple-A.
Chicago could certainly use the added offense and LaHair could perhaps play left field somewhat passably, but the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano and his contract there.
Earlier, Craig asked if Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber would play the outfield now that the World Series has come to Chicago, where there will be no DH. The answer to that is no, it appears. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that Schwarber has not been medically cleared to play the outfield, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.
Schwarber returned to the Cubs sooner than expected after suffering a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg during an early April collision with teammate Dexter Fowler in Arizona. In preparation to join the Cubs for the World Series, Schwarber went to the Arizona Fall League and reportedly saw over 1,000 pitches from machines as well as Single-A pitchers. He doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat as he went 1-for-3 with a walk and a double (that was very nearly a home run) in Game 1, then drew a walk and hit two RBI singles in five plate appearances in Game 2.
At least right now, however, it appears Schwarber will serve as a bat off the bench for Games 3, 4, and 5 until he gets medical clearance.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Thursday that Astros bench coach Trey Hillman is leaving the team to manage the SK Wyverns in South Korea. According to Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News, Hillman will earn $600,000 in each of two years plus a $400,000 signing bonus.
Hillman, 53, managed the Royals from 2008-10 but the team wasn’t very successful, putting up a 152-207 record before he was fired early in the 2010 season. Hillman was the bench coach for the Dodgers from 2011-13, served as a special assistant for the Yankees in 2014, and had been the Astros’ bench coach for the past two seasons.
Per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, the Astros released a statement which read:
Trey Hillman has accepted the managerial position of the SK Wyverns baseball club of the South Korean Professional Baseball League (KBO). We thank Trey for his contributions to the Astros success over the past two seasons and wish him the very best.
This won’t be Hillman’s first time working in baseball overseas. He managed the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League from 2003-07.