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Kyle Schwarber tosses his bat after striking out in the ninth inning June 18 in Pittsburgh.

Why Cubs waited so long to demote Kyle Schwarber and what comes next

SHARE Why Cubs waited so long to demote Kyle Schwarber and what comes next
SHARE Why Cubs waited so long to demote Kyle Schwarber and what comes next

MIAMI — The Cubs’ patience has run out.

After 2½ months of teeter-totter baseball behind mediocre starting pitching and worse hitting, the World Series champs put aside their organizational man crush and optioned slumping Kyle Schwarber to Class  AAA Iowa on Thursday.

It was a move that had hung in the stagnant air over the Cubs’ lineup since Schwarber was moved out of the leadoff spot more than a month ago, his average not much higher then than the .171 he leaves behind on his way to Iowa.

So what took so long?

“That’s a fair question,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “The answer is patience. The honest answer is we believe in him so much. He’s never struggled like this. We kept thinking he was going to come out of it.”

The Cubs don’t have a timetable for Schwarber’s return. How quickly he can mentally “reset” and physically fine-tune his mechanics with hitting coordinator Andy Haines will determine that. He also gets a few days off before reporting to Iowa, Hoyer said, to “clear his head.”

There might be a bigger question. If the Cubs finally reached the point of demoting their two-time postseason hitting hero after nearly half a season of fierce commitment to his roster spot, could other big moves be far behind?

Could they even expand their trade-deadline wish list to include a hitter?

“I’d never say never to a question like that, but I do believe our offensive turnaround is internal,” Hoyer said. “I don’t know what’s going to present itself as we get closer to the deadline. I will say this: When it comes to our offense, I really do see it as these are our guys. We’re as deep with position players as any team in baseball. . . . We don’t have rings on our fingers without all these guys.”

So pitching, and more pitching, remains the trade-deadline focus.

And fixing the hitting woes will be up to guys like Kris Bryant, who hit a three-run homer in Thursday’s victory over the Miami Marlins; beleaguered shortstop Addison Russell, who spent the final four innings looking for a triple to finish a cycle; and rookie Ian Happ, who had the first three-hit game of his career.

And maybe even Mark Zagunis, who was called up from Iowa as part of Thursday’s series of moves and made his major-league debut in right field.

“If something presents itself that makes sense, we’ll certainly jump on it,” Hoyer said, adding, “We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut. The answers are in that clubhouse, and we believe in those guys.”

Getting healthier could be a big part of the answer.

The Cubs added right fielder Jason Heyward to the 10-day disabled list Thursday, as expected, because of the cut on his left hand that he suffered while making a sliding attempt at a foul pop on the warning track Sunday. The move was back-dated to make him eligible to return Thursday in Washington. But Heyward has trouble gripping the bat, and there’s no guarantee the cut will be closed enough by then to activate him.

And World Series MVP Ben Zobrist stayed behind in Chicago as the team opened an 11-game road trip. Once his sore left wrist is deemed well enough, he’ll be sent on a brief minor-league rehab assignment.

And then there’s Schwarber, the powerful lefty, who missed almost all of last season with a knee injury and was considered a significant reason for optimism that the lineup could be even more prodigious this year.

“I think for us to get where we need to go, I think he’s going to be a huge part of that,” Hoyer said.

Schwarber’s detour to the minors is at least as common a path for successful players as Bryant’s route of debuting and never going back. Schwarber had played only two big-league games in April and May combined before this year.

“There’s no scarlet letter attached to this,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just the way it happens sometimes, and you have to do what you think is best.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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