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Maddon says 2016 layoff took toll on Schwarber offensively

Kyle Schwarber collides with Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli during the fifth inning Friday. Schwarber was called out on the play. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A day after left fielder Kyle Schwarber returned from his Iowa demotion, manager Joe Maddon admitted that he might’ve underestimated the effect that missing most of the 2016 season had on Schwarber.

He went 1-for-3, including a double in the fifth inning, with a walk in the Cubs’ 6-1 victory Friday against the Pirates. Schwarber, who went 0-for-4 in his return game Thursday, is hitting .170 in 66 games. Maddon acknowledged that Schwarber and shortstop Addison Russell haven’t lived up to preseason expectations offensively, but he said last season’s layoff might be a major reason why Schwarber has struggled.

“That is the one part that, probably more than anything, has created a little bit of a setback for him,” Maddon said. “I really, absolutely, firmly 100 percent believe he’s going to overcome all this. But I think coming off of last year going into this year, missing so much time probably led to that and then compounded it.

“When you go up there to the plate and your numbers are really low and you see that all the time and you start pressing, it’s difficult to dig out of that hole. He just needs to accumulate at-bats again.”

Five-year run

First baseman Anthony Rizzo hit his 20th home run, a two-run blast in the fourth inning.

It’s Rizzo’s fifth consecutive season with at least 20 homers and the third season he has reached the 20-homer mark before the All-Star break.

Rizzo joins Billy Williams (13 times), Bill Nicholson (six times) and Leon Durham (five times) as the only Cubs left-handed hitters with five 20-homer seasons. Rizzo also joined Williams and Ron Santo as the only Cubs to accomplish the feat before they turned 28.

“That’s pretty cool,” Rizzo said. “Just to be mentioned with those guys — obviously two of the greats ever to play the game, especially for the Cubs — is pretty special.”

Pick and choose

Third baseman Kris Bryant stepped to the plate in the eighth inning a double shy of the cycle. After a single in the first inning, a triple in the fourth and a solo home run in the sixth, Bryant hit his second homer, a two-run shot.

If he’d had his druthers, though, would he have preferred another homer or the cycle?

“Two home runs any day,” Bryant said.

“I didn’t even know until I got in the dugout and they told me. I could have just missed third and missed home, right? Is that a double? See, I wasn’t thinking.”

Lange agrees to terms

The Cubs signed first-round pick Alex Lange (30th overall), a right-hander from LSU. Terms were not disclosed, but published reports had the deal at $1.925 million.

The Cubs also agreed to terms with outfielder Nelson Velazquez (fifth round) and right-hander Jeremiah Estrada (sixth round).

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.


Back to .500: Bryant, Rizzo power Cubs to 6-1 win over Pirates

Best if the Cubs turn this around on their own, without trade help

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