After a roster crunch forced his demotion back on July 27 (can you believe it’s been that long?), and a whole bunch of drama unfolded thereafter, Tommy La Stella may finally be making his way back to the Major Leagues.
Per CBS, Theo Epstein says La Stella will be back with the Cubs at some point this week.
The timing makes plenty of sense, of course, with rosters expanding on September 1 and the Triple-A season coming to an end shortly thereafter, so you can probably expect to see La Stella by Thursday or Friday at the latest (for what it’s worth, La Stella wasn’t in the Iowa Cubs’ lineup last night, leading Tommy Birch to guess that he didn’t make the road trip with the team – suggestive of a call-up soon). What happens once La Stella returns, however, is yet to be seen.
The Cubs have continued to publicly support La Stella through this relatively unprecedented, but trying time in his career, while reiterating that if he wants to return to the big league Cubs, he’ll have to make his way through the Minors first – just like everyone else. Well, he’s done that.
La Stella played in only a couple of games at Double-A Tennessee before being promoted to Iowa, but he played in more than a handful there as he awaited the call. All in all, he took 30 plate appearances during his
rehab stint? sabbatical? tour of the Cubs’ minor league system, slashing .296/.367/.370 (.074 ISO) with a 6.7% walk rate and a 16.7% strikeout rate.
The numbers aren’t bad (though they aren’t great either), but they don’t really matter either. We already know that La Stella is a Major League player capable of hitting Major League pitching – that is never what optioning him to the minors was about. That said, given that he took nearly three weeks off in between playing any organized baseball, he would need to show that he has his timing back. Hitting .296 and striking out just 16.7% of the time (even in a small sample) does a pretty good job of expressing that.
So, yes, he’s probably ready to return to the big leagues from a performance standpoint, but what about a personal one?
When La Stella returns to Chicago, he’ll be returning to an impressive .295/.388/.457 slash line with a solid walk rate (11.5%) and strikeout rate (18.0%), but what will he return to in the clubhouse?
General Manager Jed Hoyer suggested that his teammates might want to hear a bit of an explanation for his absence, but added that any and everything would be handled completely between the players (which feels especially “right” in this particular case). Joe Maddon suggested the same. But, given the cohesiveness and leadership of this particular Cubs team, I’m guessing that La Stella will be welcomed back with open arms. And, in the end, we probably won’t hear too much about it.
But hey, the Cubs could really use his lefty bat off the bench come October, right?