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Cubs put Descalso (ankle) on IL, add Holland

@MLBastian
July 28, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Daniel Descalso's offensive struggles have persisted for the past few months, hindering Cubs manager Joe Maddon's ability to utilize his bench. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein hinted on Friday that Descalso has been playing through some nagging injury issues. Some clarity on that front arrived on Saturday,

MILWAUKEE -- Daniel Descalso's offensive struggles have persisted for the past few months, hindering Cubs manager Joe Maddon's ability to utilize his bench. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein hinted on Friday that Descalso has been playing through some nagging injury issues.

Some clarity on that front arrived on Saturday, when the Cubs placed Descalso on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to Wednesday) with a sprained left ankle. That move opened a spot on the active roster for lefty Derek Holland, who was acquired from the Giants on Friday for cash considerations. He made his debut in Saturday's 5-3 walk-off loss, retiring Christian Yelich on a flyout to center in the eighth inning.

"[Descalso] hasn't been as productive as we would’ve hoped, and it’s killing him," Epstein said on Friday. "He’s a great teammate and a really good player -- and we know [the production is] in there. When he was feeling really good physically in April, it was in there. It’s been hard to pinpoint how much is physical, how much is sometimes you get into bad habits, because you have a little something and they're hard to shake.

"Injuries can linger, even when they’re not really patent. They can flare up here and there and not be [IL] worthy at times, but it’s just been a hard year for him."

The Cubs signed the 32-year-old Descalso to a two-year, $5 million free-agent contract over the offseason to give the club a part-time second baseman and offensive weapon off the bench. Through 73 games, the veteran has hit just .181/.283/.263 for Chicago. That includes a 2-for-26 (.077) showing as a pinch-hitter.

Over the past month (dating back to June 27), Maddon has only given Descalso two starts and the infielder has gone just 2-for-13 (.154) in eight games during that time period. Descalso's OPS last sat above .800 on April 24. In 54 games since that point, he has hit .108 (11-for-102) with a .377 OPS in 119 plate appearances.

Descalso originally injured the ankle on May 4 against the Cardinals, but he tried to play through the problem.

"Some days worse than others," Descalso said. "I don't know. I'm not going to use that as a reason for my performance. It's just been something that I've been dealing with and just trying to manage the last couple months, and it's just come to a point where it's better to take some time and rest."

Descalso said he was grateful for the steady support he has received from teammates, Maddon and Epstein. The Cubs are holding out hope that Saturday's decision to give Descalso the rest he needs will help him return looking more like the player that Chicago thought it was going to have this year.

"I think that the end of that story is yet to be written," Epstein said. "I think he’s got a chance [to turn things around]. Maybe we need to approach it differently to find a way to get more out of him. It wouldn't surprise me if there’s a lot of big hits in there from him. But I'm not going to sugarcoat it, [his production has] not been what we had hoped."

Holland arrives

Holland was with his brother in Dallas when he learned that the Cubs traded for the left-hander on Friday. That gave them a moment they will not soon forget.

"It's very exciting," said Holland who will wear No. 45 for the North Siders. "My brother's a diehard Cubs fan, so it was cool for him to get to hear the news. He was actually with me when I found out, so it was pretty cool to share that with him. Being a part of a historic franchise is pretty cool. I mean, I'm here to make sure I can help these guys as much as I possibly can."

The Cubs plan on using Holland -- a starter for much of his Major League career -- primarily as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. That is fine by the pitcher.

"I'm not too worried about a role," Holland said. "If I can help this team, that's awesome."

Worth noting

• Maddon said that he will look for situations in which setup man Pedro Strop can feel "comfortable and work on some things" as the Cubs look to get the righty back on track. Through 10 games in July, Strop has posted a 7.00 ERA with a .997 opponents' OPS and four blown saves. On Friday, his average fastball velocity of 92.9 mph was his fifth-lowest showing in an outing since 2015, per Statcast.

"We've got to get it right," Maddon said. "He was ready to go [Friday against Milwaukee]. Everything was fine and then fastball velocity wasn't there again. We've got to figure that part of it out. There's some concern, but not overtly, because he tells me that he's feeling good."

• It was Robel Garcia's turn to serve as Chicago's leadoff hitter on Saturday, marking the fourth player to start atop the order in the past nine games. Kyle Schwarber has held that role for the most part since mid-May, but Maddon said he is trying to "shake it up a bit." Overall, the Cubs have used nine leadoff men this season.

"I'm just trying to do different things to see if we can unearth something right now," Maddon said. "Kyle, the last month has been a difficult month for him. I'm just trying something different."

• Left-hander Cole Hamels (10-day IL, left oblique) remains on target to make a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Iowa on Sunday.

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.