Nick Madrigal became the odd man out in the Chicago Cubs infield mix.
The Cubs had carried an extra position player while using a four-man rotation since Hayden Wesneski’s demotion to Triple-A Iowa on May 15. Kyle Hendricks’ return Thursday night from the injured list to make his season debut — his first start since July 5 — meant the bench needed to be trimmed.
Madrigal was the casualty, optioned to Iowa as the corresponding move.
Manager David Ross said Madrigal took the news professionally and they had a good conversation in which Ross outlined his vision for Madrigal’s future. It starts with regular playing time in Triple A at second and third base.
“We knew where we saw him and we knew where he stood in his thoughts,” Ross said. “Nick is a really high-level player. We want to get him back to the best version of him because that’s when we’re going to be at our best.”
Madrigal’s fit on the Cubs roster took a hit when they signed shortstop Dansby Swanson to a seven-year, $177 million deal in December, forcing Nico Hoerner to move back to second base. Madrigal spent the rest of the offseason learning third base to improve his defensive flexibility and create a path toward playing time. Bench coach Andy Green traveled to Arizona to work with Madrigal for a week.
Madrigal held his own at third in 16 starts. The Cubs took note of how he continued to put in work defensively.
“The thing I’m most proud of for him is the way he took to third base,” Ross said. “He’s played a great third base, really clean over there. That’s hard to do. That’s kind of gone unnoticed publicly. I just keep marveling at the ability for him to make so many different types of plays and the arm strength and how he’s built that up and the way his body’s moving.”
Madrigal’s contact-hitter profile provides value when he’s locked in. During his two seasons with the White Sox before hamstring surgery and a trade across town, Madrigal showed he can get on base enough without a high walk rate. That hasn’t happened enough in a Cubs uniform.
The team hopes he can get his timing back with regular at-bats at Iowa. In 98 plate appearances this year, Madrigal hit .247 with a .286 on-base percentage and 63 OPS+.
Patrick Wisdom and Miles Mastrobuoni will continue to get most of the playing time at third base with Christopher Morel seeing most of his at-bats as the designated hitter.
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports