Three weeks after the Cubs kicked the can down the road on the Tommy La Stella–Matt Szczur conundrum, it looks like the can’s about to kick back, probably by the time the team opens a road trip Friday in Cincinnati.
The Cubs face a tough roster decision in the next few days with La Stella, the backup infielder, who will return from the bereavement list.
The Cubs expect to keep the extra pitcher they added to the bullpen even when La Stella returns. So barring an injury, that would mean waiving — or trading — Matt Szczur, the versatile outfielder who’s out of minor-league options, or optioning La Stella to the minors.
“It is a tough decision. It’s a really difficult decision,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You’re trying to weigh the potentialities of losing a player that you’d like to keep or exercising the rules that are in place and optioning a guy out and keeping the other guy.”
The last time the Cubs optioned La Stella was last summer, when he went AWOL for three weeks and had to be coaxed back by the team.
That history is not expected to influence any decision made this time around.
In the final days of spring training, the Cubs tabled the La Stella-Szczur decision by having reliever Brian Duensing open on the disabled list because of back spasms that sidelined him earlier in camp.
“We’ve had a lot of internal discussions about it,” Maddon said of talks with front-office bosses Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. “We’ll see how it all plays out, but we still haven’t concluded yet.”
The Cubs are using the day off Thursday to return the rotation to its original order.
Jon Lester will start the series opener against the Reds on Friday, and Jake Arrieta will move back to Saturday.
That also puts Lester into the next series against the Pirates, against whom he has a 2.35 ERA in nine career starts.
Arrieta then would open the series after that in Boston. The last time he pitched there (2014), he took a perfect game into the fifth inning and a no-hitter two outs into the eighth.
Kyle Schwarber got his first day off of the season, sort of. He came off the bench in the seventh to pinch-hit (he struck out and later popped out) and finished the game in left field.
Until then, he had a .379 on-base percentage as the leadoff man this season, along with three home runs and a team-leading .463 slugging percentage. And Maddon said he doesn’t anticipate any changes at the top of his every-day lineup.
“I love where he’s at,” Maddon said of Schwarber, who was tied for the team lead in RBI until Addison Russell drove in four runs Wednesday. “He’s doing a great job. And if you look at his numbers, they’re pretty spectacular already.”
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