Well folks, September baseball is upon us again. And yet again, the Chicago Cubs have the best record in the National League at 80-55, 4.5 games better than their division rival St. Louis Cardinals and five games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers.
As almost every team did prior to their games on Saturday, the Cubs added depth to their roster when they expanded from 25- to 40-man squads.
Not too long ago, Cubs fans were talking about getting Bryant and Yu Darvish back from injury for the playoff push. Instead, fans will have to “settle” for just Bryant as Darvish now has a stress reaction in his pitching elbow that requires more resting time than is left in the season.
The end of Darvish’s season comes after just 40 innings pitched in the first season of his six-year, $126 million mega-deal signed this winter. However, now that Bryant is healthy (on the DL since July 23 with shoulder inflammation), the Cubs have added the best possible piece they could have hoped for.
Prior to hitting the DL, Bryant was slashing .280/.383/.481 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI. What will obviously be a down season for the youngster numbers wise started out on a high note as the 26-year-old was sporting a .301/.419/.564 line on May 25 before a nagging shoulder put a dent in those figures.
Still, Bryant’s bat has the ability to change the course of a season — perhaps the Brewers and Cardinals seasons more so than the Cubs at this point — if healthy. The hope is that with proper rest and maintenance, his shoulder will hold up until the offseason when other actions can be taken.
Addison Russell also rejoined the active roster after missing the last 11 games with finger/hand issues. Unlike Bryant, Russell has had a dismal season at the plate. Through the first 19 days of August, Russell was slashing .231/.273/.250. Those numbers did nothing to help his dreadful season slash line of .259/.326/.359. Since hitting 21 home runs in 2016, the 24-year-old has hit just 17 more in the regular season, with five of those coming in 2018. That lack of power has Russell on the road to posting his lowest OPS (currently at .685) since breaking into the majors three years ago.
It’s for that reason that Russell will largely be used in a defensive replacement role moving forward with Javier “MVP” Baez manning shortstop on a more regular basis.
Cubs Add Three Minor Leaguers to the Mix
Norwood, 24, was called upon earlier this season to make his major league debut. On July 11, he did just that and ended up working a total of 5.2 innings for the big league club. Those frames were not particularly good as the right-hander allowed eight hits, three earned runs and two walks in 28 total batters faced.
Still, Norwood has been very solid at the Triple-A level this season, posting a 2.55 ERA across 17.2 innings to go with his 2.48 ERA in 32.2 frames with Double-A Tennessee in 2018.
Making the trip to Chicago with Norwood will be Terrance Gore. Gore, 27, has appeared in 49 games for the Kansas City Royals over the last four seasons. In those games, Gore has received just 14 plate appearances but scored 14 runs. The reason for that is because Gore is a speedster and has been used primarily as a pinch-runner throughout his career. At the big league level, Gore has 21 regular season stolen bases and has been caught just four times, all without recording a single major league hit.
At the Triple-A level between the Cubs and Royals systems this season, Gore has racked up 21 swipes with an OPS of .510.
Rounding out the first group of call-ups is Taylor Davis. Davis has been in the Cubs system since 2011, earning his first major league stint just last year. That stint lasted eight games and spanned 13 plate appearances where Davis hit .231/.231/.308 with one double and one RBI. For Triple-A Iowa this season, the 28-year-old has been more productive with the bat, logging a slash line of .275/.348/.360 with 41 RBI and 18 doubles.
Something Has to Give
Farrell has had a rough go of things at the major league level, posting a 5.17 ERA in 20 games (two starts) spanning 31.1 innings. The 27-year-old did flash a solid strikeout pitch, racking up 39 punch outs, good enough to average 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Zastryzny, 26, was also a veteran of the Cubs system. Since 2013, the left-hander had been bouncing around the minors before being called upon in each of the last three seasons (2016, 2017 and 2018), racking up 18 appearances (one start). In those 34.2 innings, the southpaw owned a 4.41 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 16 walks while posting an ERA-plus of 101.
Designating Farrell and Zastryzny for assignment was a necessary step in order to add depth in key spots. Davis can play both corner infield positions as well as catcher, giving the Cubs a valuable tool in case Bryant or Willson Contreras needs a day off.
Norwood adds a young, fresh arm to the bullpen and one the opposition has not seen much of this season while Gore brings the always important tool of speed to a team largely lacking in that category.
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