Rain wiped out his game Tuesday, but it couldn’t stop Kris Bryant from taking what looked like another big step toward a breathlessly anticipated major league debut for the Cubs.
The Cubs’ third-base drain worsened Tuesday when backup Tommy La Stella finally was placed on the disabled list before the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to Anthony DeSclafani and the Cincinnati Reds.
La Stella hadn’t played since Wednesday because of a sore rib cage, and when starter Mike Olt missed another start because of a painful right wrist, it left Jonathan Herrera as the Cubs’ third base starter again.
Top-prospect Bryant, who must remain in the minors until at least Friday to assure the Cubs an additional year of club control before free agency, was bypassed for La Stella’s roster spot. For now.
But the addition of left-hander Zac Rosscup, who was recalled to add a live arm to a well-used bullpen with left-heavy Cincinnati in town, only shortened an already depleted Cubs bench – and heightened the attention on Bryant.
“We do need some help in the bullpen. They’ve been really active over the last several days,” said manager Joe Maddon, who made Rosscup his first call in relief of starter Jake Arrieta Tuesday (and he retired four of the five he faced).
But with an off day Thursday and the San Diego Padres in town starting Friday, the need for the extra arm may no longer be in play (and particularly for the lefty).
Could the team look to get the position-player side of the roster back up to full strength by then?
“It could,” Maddon said with a grin. “It’s possible.”
Olt’s status Wednesday could have an impact on the decision. He was unable to push through the pain to be effective enough to start since getting hit there by a 97-mph fastball Saturday night in Denver. A second X-ray is not out of the question if he’s not well enough to start Wednesday. He struck out in both pinch-hitting appearances since getting hit, including the final out Tuesday against triple-digit closer Aroldis Chapman.
Team president Theo Epstein said he didn’t want to speculate what the greater roster need might be by the Padres series or what the consensus might be on Bryant.
“We don’t know yet,” he said. “We just kind of go day-by-day and assess where we are. As far as Kris the whole point with sending him down was to get into a good rhythm. They just started their season. He’s doing that. You always have to pay attention to what’s going on with the big-league club. You can’t plan everything out exactly the way you want. You just see what happens.
“But right now we’re thinking about today’s game and the fact that an extra reliever could really come in handy.”
Arrieta didn’t get the win, but he helped alleviate that issue with 6 2/3 strong innings, allowing runs in only the fourth inning of his second start.
The Reds rallied for five singles and a walk in the fourth against Arrieta, who allowed only two hits the rest of his start.
DeSclafani pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only two singles and two walks.
And while you can’t blame this loss on Bryant’s absence (even if he is 7-for-his-last-16 with two homers), it was another game in the early going in which another hit or two might have made a difference. Herrera has just a single in seven at-bats as the starter the last three games.
On thing’s for sure: The makeup of this lineup on April 14 is nothing like it figures to look on July 14 – or possibly even April 17.
“I think this is the year the Cubs are going to do very well,” said hitting consultant Manny Ramirez, who envisions several of AAA guys being part of that. “Let’s gie them time; they’re going to learn how to play together. … Once Bryant comes back, that kind of bat in the lineup, it’s going to be a plus.”
NOTES: Welington Castillo’s two-run homer in the eighth inning off ex-Cub Kevin Gregg was the catcher’s first pinch homer of his career. He’s 2-for-3 as a pinch-hitter, all in the last three games.
— Second baseman Javy Baez, who left his Iowa team just before its opener after the sudden death of his 21-year-old sister, is expected to rejoin the I-Cubs in the next day or two.