Tampa Bay’s struggling offense gets a boost tonight, as Matt Joyce returns from the disabled list after missing the past month with an oblique injury.
Joyce went 2-for-8 with a double in two games at Single-A and his return as the Rays’ primary right fielder means that Ben Zobrist will shift from the outfield to second base.
To make room for Joyce on the roster the Rays optioned Will Rhymes to Triple-A after the 29-year-old infielder hit just .233 with one homer and a .598 OPS in 45 games. Joyce batted .279 with 11 homers and an .899 OPS in 62 games before the injury and has been one of the more underrated hitters in the league since becoming a regular in 2010.
As a team the Rays have hit just .222 with a .301 on-base percentage and .347 slugging percentage since June 1.
Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.
Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.
To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.