By Mark Grote–
(CBS) The Cubs are 27-22 heading into Wednesday evening’s road contest against the Marlins. Here are a few observations of late.
1. Chances are that most Cubs fans have never seen Kyle Schwarber play baseball. It’s also quite possible that some of those same people can rattle off Schwarber’s numbers at Double-A Tennessee (.312, 12 homers, 32 RBIs and a 1.038 OPS through Tuesday) and baseball tendencies faster than they can name their own social security number.
This is Cubs baseball, 2015.
The powerful lefty-hitting catcher was Chicago’s first-round draft pick in 2014 (fourth overall) out of Indiana University and at the moment, he appears to be on pace to be the next big thing.
The catch here is that the Schwarber could get a test run on the real roster soon. The Cubs have three June series in American League ballparks (Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota), which means manager Joe Maddon will have the luxury of adding a designated hitter. Schwarber hasn’t been ruled out for that distinction, nor has Javier Baez.
A big-swinging infielder, Baez was hitting .325 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs at Triple-A Iowa through Tuesday.
“Of course those guys are all options,” Maddon said recently. “I don’t know where we’re going to go yet. That’s the beauty of what we have going on right now. There’s not just one shining light. You have several.”
2. It’s difficult to tell if the Cubs are meeting or exceeding the expectations of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
“I don’t like to do progress reports, because the season is just full of so many ebbs and flows,” Epstein said. “It’s been a best-case scenario as far as our collective make-up, the identity of our team and our will to fight each and every day, but nobody is patting themselves on the back at this point.”
Epstein kept his response ambiguous on the topic of potentially being “splashy” ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
“We are always looking to add,” Epstein said. “There’s no such thing as one day you flip the switch and start adding. We recognize that part of the benefit of having a deep farm system is making moves to improve your big league team during any relevant season.”
2015 marks the first relevant season the Cubs have had under Epstein to this point.
3. Cubs roving minor league hitting instructor Manny Ramirez recently spent time with the big league club, and don’t get him going on presence of mind.
“Sometimes these guys go to the plate, and they chase the first slider they see,” an animated Ramirez explained. “C’mon, You’re a fastball hitter! Wait for your pitch! You’re not obligated to swing at a slider. Let it go!”
Ramirez also believes that the young hitters on the Cubs can be better in the second half of the season, despite never having played the full and furious 162-game schedule of an MLB season. The conversation had a Jorge Soler spin to it.
“He’s getting to know the pitchers, and what they’re trying to do with him, and he’s making adjustments,” Ramirez said.
4. It’s never fun for a member of the media to have to approach a player after he has had a bad game. Take Dexter Fowler, for instance. In a recent game against Kansas City, he made a costly two-run error. This was after he had made a dazzling play in center field the inning prior. I approached his locker, where he was sitting, head down.
Fowler took it well.
Me: “Well, you made the play of the game in the seventh, and then …
Fowler (laughing): “And, then the worst play of the game in the eighth.”
5. Back to Manny for a second, because at some point you knew I would have to inject my “Manny being Manny” moment.
Ramirez was asked if he was finished playing baseball, as in retired from MLB.
“I’m not retired because I’m thinking about playing winter ball,” Ramirez suggested.
He was then pressed further on playing in MLB again. The 43-year-old Ramirez last played in the majors in 2011.
“You never know,” he said.
Thank you for being Manny.
Mark Grote is the Cubs pregame and postgame host on WBBM. Follow him on Twitter @markgrotesports.