Friday morning was a busy one for the Cubs. They activated reliever Justin Grimm off the 10-day disabled list, recalled catcher Victor Caratini from Class AAA Iowa and welcomed veteran infielder Mike Freeman — at Iowa since signing with the Cubs on Aug. 7 — into the fold.
Let’s see, anything else? Ah, yes — the Cubs also promoted Dillon Maples from Iowa, giving the 25-year-old flame-throwing right-hander his first shot at the big leagues.
It’s a shot absolutely no one could’ve seen coming as recently as a year ago.
More players will come and go — mostly the former — as the team expands its roster in September, but none will have a more compelling baseball story than Maples, who was a 14th-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2011.
The story took a dark turn last summer when Maples — buried at Class A South Bend — made up his mind to bag his career. Five years as a professional, and Maples still hadn’t ascended to even Class AA. It didn’t matter that he had lightning in his arm. He wasn’t big-league material. Or so he’d decided when he called his dad, Tim, to deliver the news.
“I’d lost that passion,” he said, “lost that drive.”
Tim was a second-round draft pick and a five-year pro who never made it out of the minor leagues. He urged his son to keep his dream alive.
Thursday night, Maples got to call his dad with some of the greatest news ever.
“It’s been a crazy year,” he said, “but I’m ready for this.”
Maples has had a breakthrough season, striking out 100 in 63„ innings and getting his first experience at Class AA Tennessee and Iowa. Opponents have hit a paltry .192 off Maples, whose hard slider and curveball have been wonderful complements to his sizzling 100 mph heater. The slider, especially, has been a put-away pitch.
“He has a special ability to spin the ball,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.
The message to Maples from manager Joe Maddon was simple: Don’t change a thing.
“You’ve done a lot of good stuff to get here,” Maddon told him. “Don’t think you have to do anything differently by being here.”
Just being here is quite a victory in itself.
A dive and a ‘drive’
Kyle Schwarber was involved in both of the standout plays in the Cubs’ 2-0 victory against the Braves.
In the top of the second, the left fielder charged in on Nick Markakis’ sinking liner and made a diving grab that ended with quite a flourish. Schwarber described it as a “tumble with a somersault — and I didn’t stick the landing.” Starting pitcher John Lackey was less charitable, referring to his teammate as a “bull in a china cabinet.”
In the bottom of the third, Javy Baez scored from second on Schwarber’s ringing line drive … oops, make that his swinging-bunt dribbler in front of the mound. Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz threw late to first baseman Freddie Freeman — impressive job of getting down the line by Schwarber — and Freeman’s throw home had no chance to nab the hustling, ever-exciting Baez.
Mark your calendars
The start time for the Cubs’ game Sept. 16 against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field was switched from 12:05 p.m. to 3:05, and it will air on CSN+.
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