Bote eager to provide boost in long-awaited 2nd chance with Cubs

June 2nd, 2024

CHICAGO -- It did not really hit until he was packing up his bags while with Triple-A Iowa on Saturday. When his Iowa teammates started asking where he was going and Bote told them he got the call back to the Majors, the reaction in the room brought on a wave of emotions.

“Every single one of those guys were whooping and hollering and coming to give me a big hug,” Bote said on Sunday morning. “That moment, to me, it felt like a debut type of thing. It really did.”

Bote stepped into the batter’s box at Wrigley Field for the first time as a big leaguer in 606 days on Sunday. There was no fairytale moment for him in the 5-2 loss to the Reds -- Chicago’s ongoing offensive issues persisted in a sixth straight series defeat -- but it was nonetheless a nice comeback story in a tough moment for the Cubs.

For the bulk of the past two years, Bote has suited up for Triple-A Iowa, trying to embrace his role as a mentor while wondering if his name would ever be called again. With the Cubs searching for offensive sparks anywhere they can get them, Bote’s patience paid off when Iowa manager Marty Pevey delivered the news Saturday.

“I’ve had both thoughts,” Bote said. “I was like, ‘Man, I hope it happens.’ I also thought that door was closed. But my belief system is, wherever I’m at, I’m going to do the best I can.”

In his first game with the Cubs since Oct. 5, 2022, the 31-year-old Bote finished 0-for-3, but that included plating a run from third with a fielder’s choice groundout in the sixth. That was one of the outs within an overall 1-for-11 showing with runners in scoring position for Chicago, which entered the day hitting .180 (.557 OPS) with RISP since April 27.

Bote got the nod at third base in his return with Reds lefty Nick Lodolo on the mound. Cubs manager Craig Counsell explained that the transaction -- one that included optioning Nick Madrigal to Triple-A -- was aimed at boosting Chicago’s production against lefties. Bote was hitting .306 with a .942 OPS and only one strikeout in 39 plate appearances against southpaws at Iowa this year.

“Probably his best skill set is to be a bat against left-handed pitching,” Counsell said. “I’ve always thought David was just a solid IQ baseball player, and then offensively, he hits the ball really hard, which is one of the really important things in offense, especially today.”

Bote’s run-scoring groundout off Lodolo was chopped up the middle with an exit velocity of 104.3 mph, per Statcast, but Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz chased it down and made a quick-thinking flip to second base for a forceout. Bote popped out in foul territory and struck out in his two other trips to the plate.

The fact that Bote had a trip to the plate at all this season was a feat in itself.

Bote was an 18th-round pick by the Cubs in the 2012 Draft and lived in the shadows of the wave of highly-touted position players who filled the prospect lists. He then turned into a great organizational success story after overhauling his swing, merging his knack for hard contact with launch.

Cubs fans immediately fell for Bote in the wake of his ultimate grand slam off Washington’s Ryan Madson as a rookie on Aug. 12, 2018. Chicago signed Bote to a contract extension early in ‘19 that runs through 2024. Bote had chances at locking down an everyday job, but injuries and inconsistencies led him to a utility role.

Bote was then outrighted off the 40-man roster after the 2022 season and remained with Triple-A Iowa since that decision by the Cubs.

“I get the chance to do things differently with this same organization. That doesn’t happen very often,” Bote said. “To be here, get DFA’d and come back with the same team like that, to be able to have that kind of second chance in a way of how I want to do things, that’s kind of a blessing in disguise. I’m a different person and I’m excited to keep going.”

Bote hopes to be part of the solution for a Chicago team aiming to get back on track.

“This wheel is already going. This team is full of studs. It’s a great group,” Bote said. “Obviously we’ve gone through a tough stretch, so I’m here to like hop on and do this thing together.”