Cubs DFA Frank Schwindel on day that sums up 2022 season


Another sequence of low-caliber roster moves, a couple of medical updates, the starting debut of right-hander Hayden Wesneski and the very lineup the Cubs trotted onto the field made Saturday a microcosm of a long, often ugly season.

Well, that and a Keystone Kops (look it up) sequence of throwing the ball around in the seventh inning that cost them a lead against a bad Rockies team in a 3-1 loss.

Wesneski pitched well enough for seven innings that it should have been a scoreless start, instead of leaving a 1-1 game for the bullpen. And the Cubs have played well overall the past week (sweeping the Mets in New York ahead of the Rockies series).

But this day was also a good reminder of how the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry — even when the bar for such schemes isn’t set especially high during a rebuild.

“You think about it a lot. You talk about it a lot,” Cubs manager David Ross said of the twists, turns, injuries and losses that have piled up since the start of a season that already was by design in transition.

On Saturday alone, right fielder Seiya Suzuki left on paternity leave; struggling left-hander Sean Newcomb was designated for assignment; and Frank “The Tank” Schwindel was DFA’d barely a month after having been demoted to Triple-A Iowa.

By the time the Cubs took the field Saturday, only 10 players who opened the season on the 28-man roster were on this day’s active roster — five of them having been traded, four of them having been DFA’d (including Clint Frazier, who returned as a minor-league with a new name); and one, big-money player (Jason Heyward) having gone on the 60-day IL after being told he’ll be released after the season with a year left on his contract.

“A lot of people injured and a lot of turnover,” Ross said. “Like I tell [media] all the time, there’s joy in seeing guys make their debut — like JY getting his first major-league hit — all that stuff’s very fun to see.

“There’s also expectations that I still have that we’re not meeting as a team yet. I don’t want to lose sight of that,” he said.

“I want it to continue to be a privilege to get up here and play in the major leagues, that that’s something that’s really hard to do in our organization.”

Ross added that he has faith in better times ahead, as his club opened the day 20 games under .500 and in significant flux despite the recent mini surge.

Underscoring his larger point, Jared “JY” Young, 27, was back in the lineup as the DH Saturday, the day after becoming the 16th player to make a big-league debut for the Cubs this year.

More to that point, infielder Esteban Quiroz, 30, was selected from Triple-A Iowa before the game.

He then became not only the 17th to debut but also the 63rd player used overall, six short of the major-league record the Cubs set last year (striking out as a pinch hitter in the ninth).

Forget the feel-good individual stories.

Both numbers are every bit as damning as the 83 losses that assure a second straight losing season since the roster teardown began in the fall after the 2020 season.

When it comes to the lack of guarantees, short-term, that come with any set of best-laid plans, Ross had bristled at the notion the Cubs were underdogs entering the season as they set that 28-man opening roster.

“We’re here to win,” he said that day.

More than five months later, eight of the 10 players from his Opening Day lineup (including the starting pitcher) were either out of the organization or otherwise unavailable by Saturday.

Where are they now? A look at that Opening Day lineup April 7 against the Brewers:

  • DH Rafael Ortega (60-day IL; broken finger)
  • 2B Nick Madrigal (10-day IL; groin)
  • C Willson Contreras (10-day IL; ankle)
  • LF Ian Happ (First-time All-Star; batted 2nd Saturday)
  • 1B Schwindel (Optioned last month; DFA’d Saturday)
  • RF Seiya Suzuki (Took paternity leave Saturday)
  • CF Jason Heyward (60-day IL; to be released after season)
  • 3B Patrick Wisdom (22 HR; batted 3rd Saturday)
  • SS Nico Hoerner (Strained triceps; day to day)
  • RHP Kyle Hendricks (60-day IL; shoulder)

This is what a tank looks like.

Well, this too:

And now that the Cubs have promised to get aggressive and spend on significant improvements in free agency this winter, team president Jed Hoyer and the club’s ownership is under the microscope to put back together what they’ve so thoroughly dismantled since the end of the 2020 season.

And that’s where the lack of guarantees that come with any best-laid, long-term plans enter the picture.

As Ross said, the debuts are nice.

But don’t get fooled by all the youth and debuts revolving through the roster and lineup this season. Or even the strong pitching that Ross and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy are helping engineer by patching together matchups and rotation schemes.

Can anybody be sure which of the pitchers on this roster will be in the rotation next April.

Ross can’t. He mentioned veteran Marcus Stroman and impressive young Justin Steele by name Friday night when asked about that. He brought up getting Keegan Thompson back healthy and looking at him. He said he couldn’t be sure three-time Opening Day starter Kyle Hendricks (shoulder) will be healthy.

That’s a lot of ifs and maybes to go with Stroman and Steele.

A year ago, Schwindel was hitting his way to a second straight NL Rookie of the Month award — the only two months he spent in the big leagues last year.

This year he earned more notoriety when late-night funnyman Stephen Colbert built a joke around him pitching against the Yankees.

So much for getting the last laugh.

Mostly, that just shows how fast things can change. A player’s fortunes. The promise of any team’s lightning-in-a-bottle rookie — much less a whole batch of them.

A roster in a rebuild.

“You keep track of knowing we’re not where we want to be,” Ross said, “but that doesn’t affect the daily process of having things to deal with. I don’t know if that ever goes away, whether you’re in first place or last place. There’s changes that happen and moves that are made and injuries that pop up.

“In one way, all these things are great experiences for me,” he said. “In another way, we’ve got a long way to go.”

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