Summer has begun. This is when baseball starts to heat up. Teams that have had slow starts right the ship. Teams that needed a little tweaking, have been doing this, and now are ready to make a move.
The Chicago Cubs (47-20) have been making all the right moves. They lead their rivals, the St. Louis Cards, by 12.5 games while the Pirates trail the Cubs by 15.0 games following last night’s 10-5 sweep.
The Cubs bench has been contributing all season and is one of the reasons for the team’s early season success. Everyone has contributed. Matt Szczur, a reserve that manager Joe Maddon relies on, hit a first inning two-run home run last Friday to give the Cubs and Jake Arrieta an early 2-0 lead.
The Cubs went on the win that game for Arrieta’s 11th win of the season. Javier Baez made a great sliding play to get in safe at second base vs. the Pirates in Saturday’s game.
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Baez can field, and hit, and it is no secret, other teams are seeking him if the Cubs are interested in making a trade. After the game, Baez said of his play at second, “I just do my best.”
Chris Coghlan, who played last season for Chicago, was reacquired in a trade and just came back to the club. Coghlan 31, is versatile, smart, and gives you all he has. He is hitting .250 (.153) since rejoining the Cubs and has a knack of getting on base and scoring.
He does the little things that don’t show up in the box score but helps the team win. Last season, he had 440 at-bats for Chicago.
Tommy La Stella is perhaps the team’s first pinch-hitter and is hitting .291 for the season. Maddon loves his ability to see the ball.
The newest sensation to get a call up is Albert Almora, Jr. He has played in a handful of games and hit a game-winning double to drive in a run against the Nationals.
He was Theo Epstein’s original first round pick in 2012. He’s played in the Cubs minors and was with Iowa before he got the call to come to the bigs.
Almora was known for flashing a great glove but weak with the bat. But he has worked on his hitting and has made some key hits late in the game for the Cubs. He is batting .346.
In an article published by the Chicago Tribune three years ago, Almora said,” I like to shut up and not say anything, let my game do the talking,” said Almora. “It has worked so far.”
Almora was appreciative of the moment he stepped onto Wrigley Field. “22 years and I’ve been playing baseball since I was 4-years-old. This is what every kid dreams about.”
Catcher Willson Contreras was just called up to the big club. He appeared in Friday’s 6-0 win vs. Pittsburgh and came in the ninth inning to catch Justin Grimm. His first hit came Sunday night– a two-run blast to centerfield in the sixth inning. Of course, he got a curtain call.
These players will see playing time and will be an important part of the team as it heads into the heat of summer and the heart of the schedule.