Willson Contreras and José Abreu return this week — and the Cubs’ Christopher Morel quandary – The Mercury News

Willson Contreras and José Abreu return this week — and the Cubs’ Christopher Morel quandary – The Mercury News

It’s homecoming week for former Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, former Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol and former Chicago White Sox first baseman José Abreu.

But some of them might not be in the mood to celebrate.

Contreras’ return to Wrigley Field on Monday with the St. Louis Cardinals coincides with the loss of his catching position. Grifol’s return to Kauffman Stadium on Monday for a four-game series comes amid one of the worst starts in White Sox history. And Abreu entered Sunday hitting .223 with no home runs and a .527 OPS for the Houston Astros, who visit the Sox for three games starting Friday.

Now we’ll see how they fare in their old stomping grounds.

Every Monday throughout the season, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead for the Cubs and White Sox.

Waiting on Morel

The Christopher Morel saga is beginning to look a lot like the Nico Hoerner story from 2021.

After early success with the Cubs, Hoerner was sent to Triple-A Iowa in spring training of ‘21 after the Cubs gave David Bote the second base job. Bote hit .179 with a .571 OPS in April and never recovered. Hoerner was called up in late April, performed well while mostly playing second and eventually took over at shortstop for the departed Javier Báez .

Morel was sent to Iowa this spring after succeeding in the majors last year with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs while playing multiple positions. The Cubs’ rationale was there was no place to play him regularly, though they also wanted to change his mechanics.

It has worked. Morel entered Sunday hitting .327 with 11 home runs, 30 RBIs and a 1.172 OPS, leading the International League in several offensive categories. He had made 12 starts in center field, nine at third base and seven in the corner outfield spots.

“Chris is playing awesome and he’s great in the clubhouse and he’s going to have a huge impact on this team,” Cubs President Jed Hoyer said. “I do think he’s benefiting from playing every day. Where there is a path to playing a lot, there’s no question he’ll be up here. He really sparked us last year and I know he can have that impact.

“But we want to make sure he’s coming and playing every day. Having him come and not get those at-bats and not get a chance to participate on a regular basis, I don’t think that’s the right thing for him or for us.”

Maybe, but a little creativity by manager David Ross could have solved the playing time issue. Morel could have played right field when Seiya Suzuki was on the injured list to start the season. He also could have made a few starts at third when Patrick Wisdom played right field and given center fielder Cody Bellinger or left fielder Ian Happ a day off. Designated hitter also would’ve been a possibility.

The Cubs didn’t need to carry three catchers to start the season; they already designated Luis Torrens for assignment and sent him to the Baltimore Orioles for cash. They’ve also demoted third baseman Edwin Ríos, who hit .100 (2-for-20) in 12 games, and outfielder Miles Mastrobuoni, who hit .200 (4-for-20) in eight games.

The Cubs (17-17) aren’t good enough to continue to ignore Morel’s numbers. Who knows if his bat could’ve helped in their eight one-run losses?

Hoyer should rectify the situation soon, as he eventually did with Hoerner.

Latest hurdle for White Sox

Shortstop Tim Anderson returned from the injured list last week. Closer Liam Hendriks and third baseman Yoán Moncada are rehabbing with Triple-A Charlotte. Reliever Garrett Crochet is doing likewise with Double-A Birmingham.

Just when it appeared the Sox were getting healthier, they received the tough news Saturday that outfielder/designated hitter Eloy Jiménez will miss four to six weeks recovering from an appendectomy.

“He feels really good, he sounded really good,” Grifol said Sunday. “I spoke to him (Saturday) and he didn’t sound too good. Today, the first thing I told him when he answered the phone, he sounded like normal Eloy. He was obviously in big-time pain (Saturday) and it intensified throughout until he had the surgery.”

The Sox placed Jiménez on the 10-day IL on Sunday and recalled catcher Carlos Pérez from Charlotte. The Jiménez news came a couple of days after infielder Jake Burger went on the IL with a strained left oblique.

Burger is tied for the team lead with seven homers. Jiménez has hit safely in his last eight games, going 14-for-33 (.424) in the stretch.

“There’s really no words to explain it, it’s next man up,” Burger said Sunday. “We will obviously miss Eloy for however long it takes. He was getting super hot. When he’s hot, he’s the best hitter in baseball, he’s fun to watch. Disappointing. I hope for a quick recovery.”

Grifol said team leadership can be impactful in moments like this.

“You lose a guy, not only is he in the middle of your lineup, but you lose a guy who’s hot in the middle of your lineup,” Grifol said. “That’s when leadership comes to the forefront. You’ve just got to keep it moving, keep moving forward. We have to find ways to win. We have to do whatever we can to win a baseball game.”

Week ahead: Cubs

The Cubs rebounded from a 1-6 road trip by winning two of three from the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. With warmer temperatures back and the Cardinals in town, the three-game series between the National League Central rivals should be interesting.

Marcus Stroman starts Monday’s opener for the Cubs. The Cardinals have fallen off the face of the earth since falling to the Philadelphia Phillies in the playoffs, starting out 11-24. Before beating the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, they were 14 games under .500 for the first time since the end of 1997.

Cardinals manager Oli Marmol is on the hot seat and not handling things well in his second year on the job, fighting with umpires and reacting defensively to innocuous questions from reporters. Could he be on his way to an early exit?

After an off-day Thursday, the Cubs travel to Minnesota for a three-game interleague series against the Twins, the early leaders in the American League Central, perhaps the worst division in baseball. Drew Smyly likely faces Twins ace Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.35 ERA) on Friday in a game telecast on Apple TV Plus.

  • Monday: vs. Cardinals, 6:40 p.m., Marquee
  • Tuesday: vs. Cardinals, 6:40 p.m., Marquee
  • Wednesday: vs. Cardinals, 6:40 p.m., Marquee
  • Thursday: off
  • Friday: at Twins, 7:10 p.m., Apple TV+
  • Saturday: at Twins, 1:10 p.m., Marquee
  • Sunday: at Twins, 1:10 p.m., Marquee

Week ahead: White Sox

Grifol didn’t get nostalgic during spring training when the Sox traveled to Surprise, Ariz., to play the Royals. He spent the previous 10 seasons in various coaching roles with the Royals before becoming the Sox manager.

“You’re probably going to think I’m lying, but I don’t really feel anything extra,” Grifol said on March 8 in Glendale, Ariz. “It’s another game that we need to prepare ourselves for Game 1. And that’s the truth. My 10 years there were my 10 years there and I’m here now.”

Grifol said perhaps it would be different before the first game in Kansas City.

“Because I felt like I connected with fans there and with the media there,” he said at the time. “I was always eating out and knew a lot of people in Kansas City.”

The reunion week also includes Abreu returning to Guaranteed Rate Field with the Astros. Abreu, who ranks in the top 10 in several all-time offensive categories after nine seasons with the Sox, signed a three-year deal with the Astros in the offseason.

  • Monday: at Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Tuesday: at Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Wednesday: at Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Thursday: at Royals, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Friday: vs. Astros, 7:10 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Saturday: vs. Astros, 6:15 p.m., Fox-32
  • Sunday: vs. Astros, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH

What we’re reading this morning

This week in Chicago baseball

May 8, 1984: White Sox and Brewers play 25-inning game

It was the longest game in MLB history at 8 hours, 6 minutes. After playing 17 innings the previous day, the teams met again before a regularly scheduled game, making the total 34 innings for two days. Harold Baines homered off Chuck Porter with one out in the bottom of the 25th for a 7-6 victory. Pitcher Tom Seaver won both games for the Sox.

May 9 1993: Cubs 1B Mark Grace hits for the cycle

He was the 14th Cubs player to do so, and it happened in a 5-4 loss to the Padres.

May 11, 1998: Kerry Wood sets major-league record for strikeouts in consecutive games

The record of 33 was set by fanning 13 Arizona Diamondbacks in a 4-2 victory. The record for strikeouts in two starts had been 32, set by Luis Tiant in 1968 and matched by Nolan Ryan (1974), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Randy Johnson (1997).

May 11, 2000: Cubs lose longest nine-inning game in NL history

The Brewers beat the Cubs 14-8 in 4 hours, 22 minutes. The teams tied the major-league record set by the Orioles and Yankees on Sept. 5, 1997.

May 12, 1970: Ernie Banks hits 500th home run

It was a rainy and foggy morning at Wrigley Field and the game was almost postponed, but Cubs GM John Holland decided to wait. “The sun will come out for Ernie,” Holland predicted.

And it did — in the second inning, moments before Banks stepped in with the bases empty against Pat Jarvis of the Atlanta Braves.

The Tribune’s Jerome Holtzman wrote: “The count was even, one ball and one strike, when Jarvis fed Banks his best fastball, chest-high and on the inside half of the plate. Banks swung. Rico Carty, the Atlanta left fielder, turned toward the bleacher seats in left-center, and the small crowd, aware of the historic moment, responded with what was to become a four-minute standing ovation.”

Mr. Cub had hit his 500th major-league home run. The milestone homer also increased his career RBI total to 1,600.


”I like Twitter. I go on Twitter for the NFL draft and everything that just happened. I open up Twitter and every once in a while I’ll scroll and my face pops up, which is weird. It’s unexpected and I try to scroll past it, but I’m human. Sometimes I read it. Try not to think about it too much. Take it for what it’s worth and keep on going.” — Cubs rookie first baseman Matt Mervis


Soruce : https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/05/08/chicago-baseball-report-willson-contreras-and-jos-abreu-return-this-week-and-the-cubs-christopher-morel-quandary/

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