Since Jason Heyward went on the disabled list and Kyle Schwarber was optioned to AAA Iowa, the Cubs have been playing with a three-man bench.
Sometimes, you’ve gotta go a little short because the bullpen has been wrecked, but the Cubs already playing with a non-standard eight in the pen, so being up at nine – where they are currently – is kinda nuts if it’s more than a day.
Still, it took a re-emergence of Addison Russell’s shoulder discomfort to get another bench player up to the big league team:
Jeimer Candelario being recalled for the Cubs. Russell injury likely the reason another body needed. Cubs carrying 9 relievers.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 26, 2017
Candelario en route to D.C., corresponding move to involve reliever. Floro didn't pitch in Miami series. Candelario insurance for Russell
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) June 26, 2017
Candelario also gives Cubs bench cover with Russell (shoulder) day to day.
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) June 26, 2017
Assuming Candelario replaces a reliever on the roster, that does suggest the Cubs feel like Russell will not need a disabled list stint – or at least want to hold onto the possibility that he won’t need it.
And obviously that may well be the case. But you’ll forgive me if I’m a little once-bitten-twice-shy about the Cubs having a guy play through a mild injury after what has happened with Ben Zobrist and his wrist. Russell’s shoulder injury has lingered since early this season, and although he and the Cubs seem to be comfortable resting it periodically and then playing through it, the discomfort clearly has not totally abated. Maybe 10 days of rest wouldn’t change that, but maybe it would. Maybe his performance hasn’t been impacted by it, but maybe it has.
In any case, Candelario will come up today for his third big league stint. The 23-year-old switch-hitter has clearly proved at this point that he can rake at AAA, but the performance hasn’t translated to the big leagues … in his 36 plate appearances. Which is, of course, a nothing-burger sample size that features a .190 BABIP. There is absolutely nothing to see there.
Even if Russell sits for a couple days, though, Candelario is not assured of starts because of his limited positional flexibility – he really can play only at third and first base. Perhaps Kris Bryant flexes to the outfield for a game or two this series, opening up third base for Candelario. But it’s also possible that Tommy La Stella would pick up a start there in the right match-up.
I’m sure the Cubs would love to see Candelario get some more starts at this point in his development, but it’s tough when the only two positions you play are manned by the cornerstone guys in the franchise.