Anthony Rizzo flopped in a 49-game debut with the Padres last year, but he’s now crushing Triple-A pitching for the second straight season and the Cubs are starting to think about calling him up.
Rizzo, whom the Cubs acquired from the Padres for Andrew Cashner in January, is hitting .346 with 14 homers and a 1.106 OPS in 41 games at Triple-A after hitting .331 with 26 homers and a 1.056 OPS in 93 games at Triple-A last season.
In other words, there isn’t much left for the 22-year-old to prove in the minors at this point.
One issue is that Rizzo is a first baseman and Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair has been one of the league’s best hitters so far. LaHair also has some experience in left field and told Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago that he’d be fine switching positions to make room in the lineup, although the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano and his giant contract there right now.
According to Levine no one has approached LaHair about a position switch yet and he hasn’t been getting any work in the outfield, which suggests a move isn’t imminent. It would seemingly make sense to promote Rizzo for the interleague series in Minnesota that begins on June 8, as that would allow the Cubs to use the designated hitter before deciding whether they want to shift LaHair to the outfield full time.
Meanwhile, manager Dave Sveum admitted that calling up Rizzo “is definitely going to be talked about” because “he’s done everything he can down there.”
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.
The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs NLCS Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
We’re pulling out the big guns for this one. The Cubs took Los Angeles by storm again in Game 5, closing out their road trip with an eight-run spread over the Dodgers, and tonight they’ll try to clinch the NLCS on home turf in Game 6.
Pitching-wise, it’s a rematch of Game 2 with Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) on the mound. Kershaw took the first set against the Cubs, going seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 while Hendricks held the Dodgers to a single run over 5 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Dodger to capitalize on Hendricks’ cutter, going yard in his first at-bat to generate a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs’ biggest strength so far this series has been an electric offense, something the Dodgers have struggled to replicate against left-hander Jon Lester and Joe Maddon’s airtight bullpen. While they’ve already beaten Hendricks at Wrigley Field once this October, they’ll need Kershaw to go the distance in another playoff gem if they intend to keep the Cubs’ championship hopes at bay with a 3.4-run average. Should Kershaw and his crew knot the series again, the tiebreaker will fall to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta in Game 7.