Even though Tommy La Stella hasn’t reported to Triple-A Iowa since the Cubs optioned him July 29, the team hasn’t yet closed the door on welcoming back the infielder this year, according to manager Joe Maddon (via Carrie Muskat of MLB.com). In regards to La Stella’s status, Maddon said Saturday, “I’m still very optimistic about him coming back, but nothing has changed.” Maddon added that La Stella will have to go the minors eventually and get some at-bats. Had he reported to Iowa by now, La Stella would have been on track to return to Chicago when rosters expand in September. But, with Iowa’s season set to end Sept. 5, time will become of the essence soon. Regardless, La Stella explained earlier this week that he’d rather “step away” from baseball than play for anyone other than the Chicago Cubs. The 27-year-old is currently on the temporary inactive list.
More from the NL Central:
- The Cubs are a potential fit for free agent reliever Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Nationals released Saturday, per Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago. Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have an obvious familiarity with Papelbon from their days in Boston, where the executives signed and helped develop the right-hander, notes Levine. Moreover, although they had won 11 in a row before Saturday and are in possession of the majors’ best record (73-42), the Cubs do have some issues in the back of their bullpen. Excellent setup man Pedro Strop is on the shelf with a torn meniscus; fellow shutdown option Hector Rondon has a strained right triceps; Carl Edwards Jr., who entered Saturday thriving, surrendered five earned runs on four walks in 2/3 of an inning during the team’s 8-4 loss to the Cardinals; and deadline acquisition Joe Smith has yielded three home runs in his first three innings as a Cub. That would be less alarming if not for his underwhelming 2016 performance as an Angel prior to the trade.
- The Pirates remain in the thick of the playoff hunt thanks in part to bargain offseason signings David Freese, Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Freese and Rodriguez took one-year deals for a combined $5.5MM over the winter, while Joyce settled for a minor league contract. The three have responded by ranking third, fourth and fifth (in the previously written order) among Pirates position players in fWAR, having combined for a 4.1 total while amassing nearly 800 plate appearances. Given the strong showings of the three impending free agents, the Pirates are going to have a difficult time replicating their cheap, effective bench in 2017, Sawchik argues.
- On bringing in relievers based on the handedness of the hitter, Reds pitching coach Mack Jenkins told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, “It’s silly. It’s outdated.” Jenkins would rather the Reds’ decisions come as a result of batters’ weaknesses – for example, if one can’t hit a curveball, then send in a curveball specialist. And while the Reds’ bullpen has been historically woeful this season, there are reasons for optimism with the likes of Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen in the fold. Iglesias, who moved to the bullpen earlier this year because of shoulder issues, has been nearly untouchable and has recorded at least six outs in 11 of 16 appearances. With that in mind, Rosecrans wonders if the 26-year-old could become a modern-day fireman reliever. Jenkins believes Iglesias, Lorenzen and Josh Smith are capable of taking on such a role. For his part, Iglesias told Rosecrans through an interpreter, “In Cuba, you always have your starter and then comes your best reliever, you can come in the sixth and finish the game, that’s not a problem for me if they bring me into the eighth and finish the game.”