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Cubs call up recognizable faces for September

@MLBastian and @Russ_Dorsey1
September 1, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Cubs added six players to their active roster when rosters expanded on Sunday. Infielders Robel Garcia and Daniel Descalso, outfielder Albert Almora Jr., right-handers Alec Mills and Duane Underwood Jr. and left-hander Brad Wieck all joined the Cubs before Sunday’s series finale vs. Milwaukee, bringing the team’s

CHICAGO -- The Cubs added six players to their active roster when rosters expanded on Sunday.

Infielders Robel Garcia and Daniel Descalso, outfielder Albert Almora Jr., right-handers Alec Mills and Duane Underwood Jr. and left-hander Brad Wieck all joined the Cubs before Sunday’s series finale vs. Milwaukee, bringing the team’s roster to 33 players.

While most of the September callups have been with the Major League squad before, Wieck will be making his first appearance in Chicago. He was acquired from the Padres in the Trade Deadline deal that sent Carl Edwards Jr. to San Diego.

The 6-foot-9 southpaw was 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA in 30 games (24 2/3 innings) for the Padres this season.

“Our basketball team just got better,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon joked. “I watched the video and, of course, I’ve talked to Theo [Epstein] and Jed [Hoyer] about him. Fastball, curveball, but one of those guys that really will throw primarily fastballs, but I liked it. I like what I saw. The fact that he’s so tall with the angle he creates. If he gets the fastball where he wants to, it’s really a tough thing to square up.”

Infielder David Bote is also expected to return to the Major League roster once his 10-day option period ends. Bote was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday to make room for Ben Zobrist on the active roster. If a player is optioned, they must remain in the Minor Leagues for 10 days before they can return unless an injury on the Major League roster occurs.

As roster expansion helps teams get through the final push of the regular season, here is a look at four players of note for the Cubs, both for this season and in the future.

Arrival: RHP Adbert Alzolay

Alzolay's Major League debut on June 20 was one of the highlights of this season for the Cubs, who have struggled to acquire and develop a top-tier Major League starter. The 24-year-old Alzolay (No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Cubs prospects list) has a chance to help alter that trend. While it has not been entirely smooth sailing in performance or health, Alzolay got a taste of The Show this year and could be on the rotation radar for next year.

In his debut, Alzolay did not allow a hit to the first 13 batters he faced in an impressive four-inning relief outing against the Mets. His next two outings were a mix of good (one hit and one run in 4 2/3 innings against the Braves) and bad (seven runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Pirates), but he flashed plenty of potential. In 15 Triple-A starts, the right-hander had a 4.41 ERA with 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Breakout: INF Robel Garcia

When Garcia started at second base for the Cubs on July 4, it completed an improbable rise from obscurity to the Major League stage. Released as a Minor Leaguer by Cleveland in 2014, Garcia was out of affiliated baseball for four seasons and playing overseas in Italy before the Cubs offered him a Minor League contract this year.

Garcia's grand slam for Triple-A Iowa on Friday marked his 21st homer at that level and helped clinch a division title in the Pacific Coast League. The switch-hitter struggled with plate discipline in his stint with Chicago in July, but he posted a .525 slugging percentage in 19 games with the Cubs and has a .946 OPS at Triple-A.

Something to prove: LHP Justin Steele

The Cubs added the 24-year-old Steele (No. 11 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Cubs prospects list) to their 40-man roster in the offseason and hoped the lefty might find his way onto the Major League radar this year. Instead, health issues hindered Steele, who returned from Tommy John surgery in July of 2018. In 11 starts at Double-A Tennessee this year, Steele went 0-6 with a 5.59 ERA. The ‘20 season will be an important one for Steele.

Name to watch: SS Nico Hoerner

Hoerner was slowed by a wrist injury this season but the Cubs' No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, is set to return to the Arizona Fall League for the second straight year. Chicago's top pick (24th overall) in the 2018 MLB Draft made a strong impression in his professional debut and continued to hit in '19. It will be interesting to see if the power numbers continue to tick back up in the AFL now that he’s healthy, and if Hoerner can find his way to the Majors at some point in ‘20.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.

Russell Dorsey is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @Russ_Dorsey1.