Stewart looking for rebound

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Stewart looking for rebound

The Rockies made Ian Stewart the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft. They believed in the power shown by the kid fresh out of high school.

Eight years later, the Rockies had had enough and sent Stewart on a one-way ticket to Chicago, taking the Cubs disappointing first-round pick Tyler Colvin in return.

It made sense for Colorado. After hitting 43 homers from 2009-10, Stewart struggled mightily in 2011, hitting just .156 with zero home runs.

Stewart is still just 26 (he will be 27 shortly after Opening Day) and the Cubs are counting on a rebound. Stewart isnt only counting on it, hes expecting it.

"I'm coming in here kinda feeling like I have a fresh start with a new organization, a great organization that I'm excited about, he said. I'm just looking forward to going out and trying to be the player that I was a few years back in Colorado.

"I want to show the team that they made a good choice in trading for me. They gave up a good player to get me in Colvin. It's nice to be wanted by such a great organization."

As for why he struggled in 2011, Stewart doesnt have a definitive answer.

"It's really hard for me to pinpoint anything from last year, he said. It was just such a rough year for me. I lost confidence. It was hard mentally for me. It was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through in baseball.

I've already gotten with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo here a few times this offseason and I really feel like I'm in a good place with him and I'm really looking forward to get going."

A big reason for the struggles last season was Stewart did not get a chance to get going. He got just 136 at-bats, appearing in only 48 games as he was shuttled to and from Triple-A multiple times.

That could change in Chicago.

"I talked to Theo and Jed after the trade, Stewart said. They were both excited to have me here. From my understanding, I'm going to get every opportunity here to play everyday and to get those 400, 500, 600 at-bats that I feel that I need to be the player that I can be.

The couple years that I did well in Colorado, I was getting 400 or 500 at-bats. Theo and Jed have been vocal about me getting that opportunity to do that. Obviously, it's on my shoulders, in my hands whether I end up getting those at-bats. If I play well, I'll get them. Just to hear from them how they feel about me is nice to know.

If Stewart is able to get going with the bat, he will be a big addition the Cubs lineup. But he also brings a solid glove and valuable experience and knowledge in rebuilding efforts.

"I'm excited to come in and be a part of a team that looks like it's headed in the right direction, starting from Theo all the way down, he said. We went through a similar situation in Colorado when I was there. We went in the right direction and ended up getting to the playoffs a few times. I'm just looking forward to doing the same thing here.

"The great years that we had in Colorado, I think we were leading the league in defense. That's really where it starts. If you can field, throw, help out the pitching staff and keep the runs down, then you don't need to score a ton of runs. The pressure is off the offense at that point. If we can field our positions and the pitchers can do their job, then I think we'll do fine over here."

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

The Cubs gave Kyle Schwarber time to sort things out by sending him down to Triple-A Iowa, and Schwarber's first game back in the minors shows he may need some time.

Schwarber's first game with the Iowa Cubs was a forgettable one. He struck out in his first three plate appearances before singling in his last at-bat. He struck out looking in the first inning before striking out swinging his next two times up.

Schwarber batted third in the lineup and played left field. Iowa won 1-0 against the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

He last played for Iowa in 2015, but only spent 17 games there. He hit .333 with three homers and a 1.036 OPS in that short stint. Before getting sent down Schwarber was hitting .171 with the Cubs with 12 home runs, but also 75 strikeouts in 64 games.

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

“Games like this is what we need right now – competition,” said Baez, who struck out in his first three at-bats and finished at 2-for-5. “Playing tight games like this will make us make adjustments better and be more in the game.”

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured their next run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save and then summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t work with a five-run cushion.

In a dramatic finish, Davis survived giving up three hits, a walk and a wild pitch, striking out Ryan Zimmerman with a curveball to end a game that lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes.

“To play so well and not win that game would have really been awful,” Maddon said.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Ryan Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “If this was a spring training lineup, we might get a call.”