11:03am: Chicago will also place outfielder Jason Heyward on the DL with a left hand injury, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago tweets. Outfielder Mark Zagunis and righty Dylan Floro are expected to take the open roster spots.
Zagunis, 24, has followed up on a strong 2016 campaign with a .249/.399/.474 slash through 268 plate appearances at Triple-A this year. He has drawn 48 walks against sixty strikeouts thus far. As for Floro, he’ll look to improve upon his first 6 1/3 innings with the Cubs, over which he allowed six earned runs on 13 hits.
10:59am: In a surprising move, the Cubs have decided to option young outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (via Twitter). The expectation is that it won’t be a lengthy assignment, but it’s still a notable decision for the defending World Series champs.
Schwarber, 24, turned in an outstanding rookie campaign in 2015 and seemed primed for more last season. Instead, he lost almost the entire regular season after a devastating knee injury. But he came back in near-miraculous fashion to join the team for the Series — turning in a .412/.500/.471 batting line in twenty trips to the plate.
Things have not gone as hoped early in 2017, however. Schwarber, who has spent the vast bulk of his time in left field, currently owns a .171/.295/.378 batting line in 261 plate appearances. Though he has cracked a dozen home runs, and is carrying strikeout and walk numbers that are virtually identical to his prior marks, Schwarber has managed only a .193 batting average on balls in play. More soft contact at the expense of hard contact likely has played a role, as has a growing flyball rate (including quite a few more infield pops), though it seems reasonable to believe there’s also some misfortune baked into the results.
The move seems designed to give Schwarber a chance to get his bat on track at Triple-A — a level he barely stopped at on his way to the majors. In his stead, the Cubs still have plenty of options. Ben Zobrist seems likely to return from the DL soon, joining Ian Happ as an option in left. Both players can also line up at second base, of course, where the Cubs can also play Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella.