CINCINNATI — The Cubs are expected to option infielder Tommy La Stella to the minors Saturday when he returns from bereavement leave.
That leaves plenty of time to start an office pool on how long it will take Le Stella to report to Class AAA Iowa.
The smart money this time might be on, roughly, immediately. La Stella, who went AWOL for three weeks last summer when he was sent out because of a roster crunch, already has talked with Cubs officials about the details of this move. Indications are the lefty bench hitter will be in Round Rock, Texas, for the Iowa Cubs’ game Saturday.
La Stella has been on bereavement leave since Monday after the death of his grandmother. Reliever Carl Edwards Jr., who returned Monday from bereavement leave (also a death in the family), took his roster spot.
Because left-hander Brian Duensing was activated from the disabled list as the corresponding move when Edwards left, Edwards’ return created an eight-man bullpen — which the Cubs want to keep intact as manager Joe Maddon continues to work through some recent issues closing out games.
Backup outfielder Matt Szczur would have been the other feasible alternative to La Stella for making roster room this weekend, but Szczur is out of minor-league options. The Cubs would have needed to trade him or waive him, with at least half the teams in baseball likely to put in a waiver claim for him.
Veteran Ben Zobrist was available only for emergency duty Friday because of a sore back that has bothered him recently, Maddon said.
With rain in the forecast Saturday, Maddon hoped to give Zobrist another day off. He said the Cubs aren’t considering putting Zobrist on the disabled list at this point.
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