SAN DIEGO — A fan hanging over the rail at Petco Park on Monday night handed Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel a binder of baseball cards to sign.
“Glad to see you back,” the fan said.
Schwindel hadn’t been gone for long. The day after the Cubs announced they were optioning him to Triple-A, the first baseman rejoined the team in San Diego. The Cubs needed all the depth they could get as they put a second player on the injured list without designation, which usually indicates a COVID-19 related injured list move. On Sunday, they put Marcus Stroman on the IL, and on Monday reliever David Robertson joined him.
In addition to recalling Schwindel, the Cubs optioned Adrian Sampson to Triple-A and selected left-hander Conner Menez.
“I think because of just honesty that I shoot ’em straight with, of how we believe in him, and knowing what he was working on and trying to get right, it’s easy to call him back,” manager David Ross said. “And I think his personality lends into even an easier conversation. I was like, ‘Hey, Frank, we’re bringing your back.’ And he’s like, ‘Sweet. Awesome, I’ll be there tomorrow.’ ”
For Schwindel, the sequence of moves made for a wild 24 hours.
He got the news before Sunday’s game that he was being optioned to Triple-A.
“It made sense,” Schwindel said. “I haven’t been playing up to what I expect, what anybody else expects. But it happens to even the best of hitters. It’s part of the game, grinding through the tough times and get back on track, and get back to doing things I’m good at and just go from there.”
Schwindel, a fan favorite late last season when he hit .342, is off to a slow start, batting .209 in 91 at-bats.
Schwindel was going to make the drive to Iowa on Sunday, but he had a nail in his tire and couldn’t find an open auto shop to get it fixed. So he decided to try again the next morning and make the drive after.
It’s a good thing he waited. Schwindel received a call after the game Sunday with the news that he was coming to San Diego after all. He got on a flight the next morning.
“I’ve sat in that chair before, getting sent down, not knowing what’s going to happen, and I don’t ever want to have that happen again,” he said. “So not necessarily a wake-up call or anything like that, I knew I wasn’t playing well. But now it’s time to get it going. And I think I can definitely help this offense. Once I start rolling, we start putting some more runs up, and it’s going to help everybody out.”
Ross didn’t call it a wake-up call either, but he left the door open for Schwindel to avoid getting sent down again.
“Sometimes these little moments, how things work out are funny,” Ross said, “and he could carry us for the next week and he’s not going anywhere. Nobody tries to predict the future here as much as we’d like to. And I know one thing about Frank, he’s going to give his best in everything we asked him to do.”
Whether it comes from Schwindel or someone else, the Cubs could use an offensive boost. Entering Monday, they were averaging 3.2 runs in their last 17 games with a .204 batting average, even with the help of a 21-0 win against the Pirates.