A fresh start to the second half of the season, and things seemed awfully familiar.
Not even the addition of Kyle Schwarber could help the Cubs’ scoring problems, as they fell to the Braves 4-2. Lots of the same issues: not hitting for power, grounding into double-plays, not coming through with runners in scoring position, etc.
Schwarber, however, was terrific at the plate. Len Kasper had a great line that summed up Schwarber’s night, calling him the Beatles because he is a hit machine. Schwarber had a hit in first three at-bats (two singles and a double) and he scored a run. But he is apparently human, as he grounded out in his final at-bat.
In terms of his defense in his first start behind the plate, Schwarber had his ups and downs. He did well with blocking balls in the dirt, and was able to frame some pitches at the bottom of the zone as strikes.
But he also had a throwing error that led to an unearned run in the bottom of the 1st, and he was charged with a second error with a catcher’s interference play in the 6th.
It will be very interesting to see how often Schwarber starts behind the plate. The Cubs have said he will not be the everyday catcher, but I have to imagine it’s going to be hard to keep his bat out of the lineup.
I’m still kind of surprised the Cubs called him up this early in the year — even considering that Miguel Montero had to be placed on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb, and it sounds like he’ll be out for a while.
I just figured the Cubs would want him to get some more seasoning before he was catching on a regular basis at the major-league level. Last night’s starter Kyle Hendricks sounded pleased with Schwarber’s performance at catcher, though:
Hendricks on Schwarber: "He knows what he’s doing back there. For his first start catching in the big leagues, pretty damn good.”
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) July 18, 2015
Soriano getting closer
Rafael Soriano has been moved up to Triple-A, and he made his first appearance Thursday night. He struck out three in a scoreless inning of work.
I imagine we could see Soriano up with the Cubs fairly soon. He was signed as a free agent in June and has been working his way into shape.
The veteran reliever had 32 saves for the Nationals last season, but struggled after the All-Star break. He also saved a career-high 45 games while pitching for Joe Maddon’s Rays in 2010.
The Cubs bullpen, for the most part, has been pretty solid this year. But you can never have enough depth. Pedro Strop has blown a couple of games in a row, and Neil Ramirez still hasn’t found his groove after returning from injury. So it would be nice to have one more option that the Cubs could depend on.
* Former Cub Arodys Vizcaino tossed a scoreless inning for the Braves last night. First acquired by the Cubs in the trade for LHP Paul Maholm, Vizcaino was then sent back the Braves this past offseason for infielder Tommy La Stella. Vizcaino was suspended 80 games in April for PEDs; this was his fifth appearance of the year. La Stella has been sidelined since the first week of the season with an oblique injury.
* More on Kyle Schwarber: Joe Maddon said before yesterday’s game that he likely won’t catch for Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta. Also, there have been no plans to play Schwarber in the outfield yet. Key word is “yet.” Especially once Miguel Montero comes back, I think this is something the Cubs will definitely look into.
* Jason Hammel, who was removed from his final start before the break with a tight hamstring, said yesterday that he’s not 100 percent but expects to make his next start on Tuesday. This is good to hear, although I might feel better if he was actually feeling 100 percent.