Justin Dukes covers the Chicago Cubs and their developments for WARR.com
After concluding an up and down series with the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs stay at home to face the Toronto Blue Jays.
Making a noticeable return to Wrigley Field this weekend is former Cubbie catcher Miguel Montero, who was traded from the ball club in early July. Montrero left the team on an especially sour note in the wake of his sharp criticism of pitcher Jake Arrieta during one of the rougher patches of the season.
With positivity as his aim, manager Joe Maddon keeps a seemingly blind optimistic approach to each season, still it was no surprise there was going to be a short leash for a rogue player to be so direct in his criticism of a teammate, a player who once criticized Maddon directly even during the celebration of the club’s first World Series win in 108 years.
Yes, in all likelihood there were Cubs players ready to vent their frustration with not just Arrieta, but as the team’s entire functionality by the time of Miggy’s dismissal. However, Montrero’s complaints were more than situational, seeming more personal.
In a high profile June series at the Washington Nationals, Montrero criticized Arrieta for being “slow to the plate” and letting Nationals players have their way on the bases. With his immediate outburst overshadowing the game, several members of the organization, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo — who called Montero’s actions unprofessional — seemed ready to move on.
The Cubs have been 21-14 since Montero’s departure and have trending upward over the past couple of weeks. Just falling short in their final game of a split 4-game series against the Reds, the Cubs should be eager to get back on the field and channel their recent energy into more wins.
While Montrero’s return will definitely stir up mixed emotions, one Cub is leaning to the positive lane.
“My development, I think, sped up a lot just because of him being around here, his experience, how much he knew the hitters, his feel and his ability just to talk to you. He could sit down and just have a conversation with you whenever,” said Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks to CSN Chicago’s Cubs Talk Podcast.
“I owe a lot to him. And I’m excited to see him back here.”
Just returning from the DL, Montrero’s impact in the Cubs series could be more of the sentimental sort. Just going 0-for-3 in his previous game and his batting average having dropped steeply since joining the Blue Jays, Montrero has yet to make a meaningful impact for the team in a three-way tie for third place in the American League East while sitting a few games below .500.
This should be a winnable series for the Cubs who are still holding on to their division’s top spot by just one game. With pitcher Jon Lester heading to the disabled list, the team should view this as such and make good on that.
Justin Dukes is a Chicago-based sports writer, follow him on Twitter @1kingzdream.