There’s no big league Cubs game tonight, but there are two Iowa Cubs games – a doubleheader, and the first game (5pm CT) will feature two players of note, among others, of course: Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.
Bryant’s presence in the first game’s lineup is notable because, had he been out of the lineup, it would have been a cinch to conclude that he was on his way to Chicago, and would be joining the Cubs tomorrow afternoon against the Padres. That’s the first day Bryant can come up without reaching free agency until after 2021, and the Cubs’ recent wave of injuries has made a call-up on that date – previously unlikely due to it being at home and being so very on-the-nose – a possibility.*
Bryant playing the first game tonight and then being called up tomorrow is still possible. If, however, Bryant plays in Game Two, I really doubt he’d be hopping a plane after that and starting for the Cubs in an afternoon game the next day. So, you’ll be back on Bryant watch tomorrow night when the Iowa Cubs have their first game at home. And, if he’s not called up by then, Luke and I will make sure to be on #HugWatch on Saturday night, since we’ll be in Iowa to take in the game that day and on Sunday.
Whether Bryant’s there or not, we’re going to have something interesting to see, because, starting tonight, Addison Russell is officially playing some second base. That’s where he’s starting for game one tonight, and it’s the first step in something the Cubs previously indicated would happen (so don’t freak out just yet). Russell was expected to see time at second eventually, and, with injuries/ineffectiveness at the big league level so far at that position, and with Javier Baez missing time on the bereavement list, it was probably time to start getting Russell exposure to second base.
When Baez is ready to return – which could be any day now – the two might shuffle back and forth between second base and shortstop. When one or both demonstrate their readiness for the big leagues, or a need there arises, we’ll see who gets the call. For now, having Russell ready for second base is a very good thing, because, frankly, he has looked like a guy who was going to be able to help the Chicago Cubs win games soon.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that each of Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara started playing games at their new position at Iowa last year (second base and center field, respectively), about two weeks before they were called up to the big leagues. Again, I don’t want you to assume that the Russell move tonight is anything more than just working on his versatility – as the Cubs indicated was coming – but it’s something to watch. If, of course, Russell is playing second base for the I-Cubs virtually every day over the next 10 days? Well, then, that might be another story.
As I said: it’s something to watch.
Which we can all do starting tonight on MiLB.tv, eh?
*(As noted in that earlier piece, my understanding was that a tiebreaker game – if necessary at the end of the year – would not impact Bryant’s service time calculation, thus making Friday a hard and fast first possible date for a call-up. Although there were reports to the contrary, Dave Kaplan has also now reported that a tiebreaker game would not impact the service time calculus. So that’s that.)