On the factual and philosophical front, very little has changed with respect to Chicago Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella since last week. He remains away from the big league team and the AAA Iowa Cubs, to which he was optioned in late July.
But, as each day ticks off the calendar, we get closer to September, when rosters expand to the full 40-man, and the possibility that La Stella could return without impacting the rest of the roster.
The question remains … will he?
For his part, Joe Maddon says he is “still very optimistic” that La Stella will return to the Cubs at some point (Cubs.com, ESPN). He cannot return, however, Maddon said, until after he’s reported to Iowa to get in some game action. That makes sense not only from a baseball perspective – La Stella will be a month removed from facing live, professional pitching at that point – but also from a clubhouse perspective. The players who’ve had comments included in reports on the situation all generally say the same thing, supporting La Stella and his desire to do what’s right for him. But, at the same time, I can’t fathom it would be completely supported if La Stella refused the assignment to the minors (while other big-league-caliber players have been optioned and reported) and then came back to the big league team right away as though nothing at all had happened.
I still hope La Stella eventually decides to head to Iowa, gets himself ready for the stretch, and then re-joins the big league team in September (and for future seasons, too). He is an excellent lefty bat of the bench, can play a couple positions, and is borderline starter-caliber.
La Stella seems to be processing some very real and sincere things about his baseball life, and I’m comfortable with the Cubs giving him the space to make those decisions. But, again, as a Cubs fan, I’m hopeful this resolves itself in such a way that the Cubs still have available to them a very valuable player going forward, and that he does whatever he needs to do to re-integrate into the clubhouse in a smooth and productive way.
September is just two weeks away, and I’d expect we’ll learn within those two weeks whether – and how – La Stella is going to be coming back to the Cubs for the stretch run.