Cubs promoting Matt Szczur after Dan Straily’s up-and-down start

Cubs promoting Matt Szczur after Dan Straily’s up-and-down start
August 16, 2014, 10:45 pm
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NEW YORK – Cubs fans will have to wait to see Jorge Soler.

The Cubs are promoting Matt Szczur from Triple-A Iowa and will have the 25-year-old outfielder join the team on Sunday in New York. The final six weeks of the season are becoming open auditions for a 52-70 team.

The Cubs made the move official after Saturday night’s 7-3 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. It was an up-and-down start for Dan Straily, who pitched into the sixth inning and still made a decent impression despite giving up seven runs (five earned).

“We’ll see him again,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He gave us a good look. He had a snippet in there of working through it with really good tempo.”

Straily settled down after a rocky second inning and had retired 12 in a row before hitting David Wright with a fastball in the sixth, and it unraveled from there. The Mets (59-65) wound up scoring seven runs on a night where they got only four hits, taking advantage of Straily’s three walks and Arismendy Alcantara’s error in center field.

“I just didn’t get it done,” Straily said. “That middle stretch of innings right there – that’s more of the type of guy I am. That was the most runs I’ve ever (given) up in my career, at any level. Not exactly the way you want your first one to go, but there’s definitely some positives.”

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Straily – who won 10 games for the Oakland A’s last year and came over in the Jeff Samardzija trade – is part of the change-of-scenery group that includes Jacob Turner and Felix Doubront.

With Straily ticketed for Des Moines, and outfielder Junior Lake optioned to Triple-A, Twitter speculation had instantly focused on Soler. The Cubs discussed the possibility of promoting Soler – or at least didn’t immediately dismiss the idea – but the $30 million Cuban outfielder appears to be waiting for a September call-up.

Szczur doesn’t profile like Soler (.903 OPS through 23 games) or the other power hitters in the Iowa lineup, but he’s been an interesting story and could add a different dimension with his speed (30 stolen bases) and defense.

Szczur was hitting .315 since the Pacific Coast League’s All-Star break, raising his overall average to .261. He’s been trying to catch up ever since he stopped preparing for the NFL combine and agreed to a $1.5 million bonus in 2011.

The two-sport star at Villanova University had helped the football team win a national title in the old Division I-AA as an explosive wide receiver/returner/Wildcat quarterback. That athleticism led the Cubs to take him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, trying to convince him to focus on baseball.

Now Szczur’s on the verge of making his big-league debut, about three hours from his hometown of Cape May, N.J.