Last night, Tommy La Stella returned to the Chicago Cubs organization – via the Tennessee Smokies – although, things didn’t quite go as planned.
Or they might have. It’s not quite clear. Even in his return, there are already twists and turns.
While batting second and playing second base, La Stella recorded a single in the first inning, before getting hit by a pitch (ankle/foot) in the bottom of the third. He did manage to stay in the game for another half-inning (even making a play at second), but was ultimately removed before the start of the 5th.
There hasn’t yet been word on whether his departure was planned or injury-related (most likely it was a bit of both), but let’s hope for the former. In the meantime, let’s use his debut to check back in on La Stella, bulleted style, as each of Carrie Muskat (Cubs.com), Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago), and Gordon Wittenmyer (Sun-Times) have stories up on the Cubs recently former and hopefully soon-to-be bench bat/utility man.
- According to Carrie Muskat at Cubs.com, La Stella was removed from the game as a precautionary measure, though whether that encourages you or not is really a matter of your disposition. Similarly, Wittenmyer relayed reports from Tennessee suggesting that La Stella was not moving well after the HBP, but without any update from Cubs officials after the game, there’s no way to be certain to the extent of the injury. The Smokies will play the Jacksonville Suns today at 6:05. I’m guessing we’ll know more when the lineup for that game gets posted. [Brett: Or maybe not, because maybe he’ll get rest either way. I’m helpful!]
- Assuming he’s healthy enough to play and gets back in there today (or even tomorrow), the timetable for his return is still unset. While Joe Maddon appears confident in a recall around September 1st, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was a little more open ended. “The important thing for us was that the time spent was valuable to him,” Hoyer told Cubs.com. “I think he’s excited to get going. He’s going to Tennessee and he’s got to work his way back. That’s an important factor as well. He knows he has to go down and perform and get back to playing.” Hoyer added that there is simply no set timetable for his Minor League stint.
- The cruel (just?) twist of fate, of course, is that Chris Coghlan was sent to the 15-day disabled list yesterday. Had La Stella reported when he was originally sent down, he’d like be back with the big league team today. “Quite possibly,” Hoyer said, per CSN. “Yeah, I guess that is something that was a factor for him – or a detriment for him – as far as he might have been back up in the big leagues by now had he gone down.” As it stands, La Stella will be starting in Double-A Tennessee tonight (if he’s healthy), and is even supposed to make a stop in Iowa, as well, before returning to the Cubs. The last game for Iowa, by the way, is September 5. That’s probably your hard end date on a La Stella recall. The Coghlan injury could wind up making it much sooner. We’ll see.
- For his part, Manager Joe Maddon can’t wait to have La Stella back, both in the clubhouse and on the field. Maddon misses the ability to use him off the bench and in particular spot starts where his skill-set can really play up. You may have forgotten, but if and when La Stella returns, he’ll return to a fantastic .295/.388/.457 (.366 wOBA) slash line in nearly 125 plate appearances – against righties that bumps up to .301/.387/.473 (.370 wOBA). Everything else aside, he was having a brilliant season at the plate.
- If you’re wondering how his return will be accepted in the clubhouse, though, you’re not alone. “That’s between the team and Tommy,” Hoyer said, per CSN. “If players feel like they need things to be smoothed over, then they do. I’m sure there will be a lot of conversations. It was an unusual situation. Players will probably want to hear it from his mouth ….” Maddon agreed that some of the players are going to want him to talk about it, but added that “knowing Tommy,” he’ll be very open to speaking about it on his return.
- Jason Heyward suggested that the team would be willing to welcome him back with open arms, because of his character and how much he contributes to the team both on and off the field. While Kris Bryant essentially suggested that he wasn’t paying attention to the story at all, because “it’s up to Tommy and the front office.” Given the nature, make-up, and success of this particular ball club, I’d be shocked if La Stella’s return was anything but celebrated. While he may have given some fans and the front office a few headaches, his teammates and manager generally seem to have his back.
- Hopefully La Stella will return to the lineup tonight with the Smokies, put some time at Double-A and Triple-A, and be back with the big league team by September. Then, he can help the Cubs like he has all season.