(CBS) As Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella’s absence from the organization stretches to 11 days with his failure to report to Triple-A Iowa after being demoted, manager Joe Maddon emphasized Tuesday that the “ball is in Tommy’s court.”
On July 29, the Cubs demoted the 27-year-old La Stella and activated outfielder Chris Coghlan from the disabled list. La Stella didn’t take the news well and instead of reporting to Triple-A in the usual 72-hour time frame, he decided to return home to New Jersey, where he’s continued to hit and work out but isn’t encountering a game setting, Maddon said.
The Cubs have remained in consistent contact with La Stella and have placed him on the temporary inactive list in the minor leagues, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday evening. Players continue to be paid when they’re on the inactive list.
“We’ve been talking to him,” Maddon said on the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score earlier in the day. “I’ve texted and talked to him, and we’ve had other folks talk to him also. Right now, I don’t have any kind of conclusion for you honestly. He’s working out back near his home in New Jersey. He’s hitting, he’s running, those kinds of things. So we’re just waiting for him to decide exactly what he wants to do. Of course, in order to ameliorate the clubhouse, you can’t take him from there (in New Jersey) and bring him right back to the club. He’s probably going to have to settle and go back to Triple-A at some point if that’s what he wants to do.
“Listen, we all have different agendas in our life. We all interpret everything differently. Pretty much, the ball is literally in Tommy’s court right now. We love having him here. He’s a great teammate. He’s a very good player. Do we want to have him back? Absolutely, but pretty much, it’s his decision that he has to make for himself.”
Hoyer made clear that La Stella isn’t ill and that the Cubs won’t rush him into a decision.
“I’m not going to put any kind of timetable on it,” Hoyer said.
“He’s a 27-year-old kid. He’s working through some stuff, and we’re trying to give him time to work through those things. We’ve had a lot of contact with him … He’s processing a lot of different things right now. He’s working through some issues.”
For his part, La Stella has previously considered retirement and will only play for the Cubs, he told ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers.
“I’m not going to go play for someone else,” La Stella said, according to ESPN.com. “That’s not something I have any interest in doing. I’m here for a reason. This is where I want to be … I’m just waiting to hear back from the team and keeping up with all the workouts and training and hitting.”
La Stella has been a key bat off the bench for the Cubs, hitting .295 with an .846 OPS and making the occasional spot start when matchups dictated it. Part of the reason he was demoted was because he had options left, meaning he could be sent down without being exposed to other organizations. Whether La Stella will get a chance to play again for the Cubs remains anyone’s guess right now.
After stressing the importance of competing in games to keep your rhythm, Maddon acknowledged the current situation will lead to “strain” between La Stella and the Cubs. And while the Cubs want La Stella back — rosters expand in September, opening up a spot for him and giving the Cubs more time to evaluate everyone for the 25-man playoff roster — there will be dynamics to address with the front office and the current Cubs players, Maddon said.
“Do I worry about it?” Maddon said. “Not with this particular group, because I think our group will be able to talk among each other and sort it out and come to the right conclusion. And if they’re having any problem with that, they’ll come talk to me about it. So I’m not necessarily worried about it, because I know Theo (Epstein) and Jed (Hoyer) will handle it properly on their end. And from our perspective, like I said, we want Tommy back. I think he’s really good. He’s a very good hitter. He’s a lot of fun to be around. But again, just doing what he’s doing right now is probably going to create a little bit more strain in the sense of regarding him coming back.”
Maddon shed some more light on why La Stella has chosen not to report to Triple-A yet.
“It was just a matter of once we went ahead and did it, it’s just probably his personality, viewing his baseball life in general,” Maddon said. “It’s just what he’s thinking and what he wants his next step to be regarding his career path in baseball or otherwise. There’s no animosity whatsoever. It’s really the same conversation. It’s just a young man in a situation now trying to weigh his different options.”
In other news, the Cubs activated right-hander Jason Hammel from the bereavement list and sent reliever Justin Grimm back to Triple-A, Maddon said.
“The plot thickens in regards to having good players and trying to keep them all on the field and playing,” Maddon said, speaking generally.
Listen to Maddon’s full interview below.