A lack of quality starting pitching might have cost outfielder Matt Szczur his job with the Cubs.
The Cubs designated Szczur, 27, for assignment Saturday and recalled left-hander Rob Zastryzny from Class AAA Iowa. Zastryzny, 25, allowed three runs in four innings of relief in his season debut against the Yankees.
The Cubs needed a fresh arm for a bullpen that has been taxed recently by extra-inning games and ineffective starting pitchers. Zastryzny went 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in eight appearances (one start) with the Cubs in 2016 and offers a long-relief option alongside southpaws Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing.
Szczur is out of options and might be finished with the Cubs, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2010 and promoted him to the majors in 2014. He hit .211 (4-for-19) with one double and three RBI in 15 games this season and might be attractive to other teams looking for outfield depth.
‘‘It’s excruciating,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘He’s everything you want in a teammate. I wasn’t with him as long as [president] Theo [Epstein] and [general manager] Jed [Hoyer] had been, so it was really tough for those two guys.’’
Szczur enjoyed more consistent playing time last season. He hit .259 with five home runs and 24 RBI in 107 games but didn’t appear in the playoffs as the Cubs won the World Series.
On the fence
Maddon typically is pretty good at making up his mind. But when it comes to the possibility of robot umpires calling balls and strikes in the not-too-distant future, he freely admitted he keeps wavering on whether it would be good or bad for the game.
‘‘This is a tough one,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘You could go on and on and round and round. I think we’ve nailed it on the bases, but actually calling balls and strikes, I can’t really come up with a solid conclusion.’’
Maddon said many veteran umpires were skilled at understanding the nuances of the game. He wondered whether an electronic system would make too-rigid determinations based on a batter’s height or stance.
‘‘The ball-and-strike component, I’m fascinated by it,’’ Maddon said.
On the bench
Outfielder Jason Heyward didn’t play because of a sore knuckle in his right index finger, but he was available, if needed.
Maddon said Heyward injured the knuckle on a dive in the series opener Friday. The rest came at a decent time for Heyward, who has one hit in his last 13 at-bats.
Outfielder Kyle Schwarber joined Heyward in the dugout a day after slamming his fifth homer. Jon Jay started in his place in left field, with Albert Almora Jr. in center and Ben Zobrist in right.
‘‘Schwarber looked good [Friday], so I did not want to press it with a lefty [Jordan Montgomery] today,’’ Maddon said.
Maddon said Schwarber should be back in the lineup Sunday against right-hander Luis Severino.
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