That’s amore? Cubs seek power-ball payout on Italian-league lottery ticket Robel Garcia
The internet sensation among Cubs fans with 21 minor-league home runs in his stunning return to affiliated pro ball this year makes his big-league debut.
PITTSBURGH — Shake up the Cubs’ lineup? Light a fire under some chair cushions? Find another bat that can make something happen?
How about rolling the dice on a guy who spent most of the last five years in independent ball and was discovered while playing for an Italian-league team?
Meet Robel Garcia, a 26-year-old switch hitter from the Dominican Republic, who never played higher than Class A with the Indians and joined the Cubs’ organization as a pocket-change lottery ticket this season.
Two minor-league levels and 21 home runs later, he was on the Cubs’ bench Wednesday, giving manager Joe Maddon a different option for a backsliding team. He struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
Garcia, whom president Theo Epstein called an ‘‘intriguing fit for down the road’’ barely a week ago, is expected to be in the lineup Thursday against the Pirates.
‘‘He hits the ball really, really hard from both sides of the plate and gets it in the air a lot, especially left-handed, and he can turn around anyone’s fastball,’’ Epstein said.
Primarily a third baseman and second baseman, Garcia more recently has played left field at Class AAA Iowa to add versatility.
‘‘Great story,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I’m eager to find out more about it.’’
NOTES: Reliever Dillon Maples was optioned to Iowa, putting the Cubs’ bench back to its usual strength and the bullpen back to eight men.
• Third baseman Kris Bryant, who has been playing through a sore knee since being hit by a pitch in Cincinnati, was out of the starting lineup Wednesday.
• Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who was designated for assignment last weekend, cleared waivers and opted to become a free agent.