Tauchman keeps finding ways to come through for Cubs

June 18th, 2023

CHICAGO -- Since he was called up on May 19, Cubs outfielder  has taken advantage of his time on the big league roster. 

He got his call after Cody Bellinger hurt his left knee making a play in the outfield in Houston on May 15, but Tauchman has remained with the Cubs even after Bellinger returned Thursday. In Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Orioles, Tauchman put his stamp on the game early.

In the top of the first inning, Baltimore’s Austin Hays led off with a double and then moved to third on a groundout by Adley Rutschman. In what looked to be a typical sacrifice fly, Anthony Santander hit a fly ball to Tauchman in center. But instead of scoring from third, Hays found himself on the back end of an 8-2 double play.

Tauchman’s one-hop throw from center was to the third-base side of home plate for catcher Miguel Amaya, who made the tag to end the inning. It was the kind of play that requires precision on the throw, because the catcher is largely dependent on where and how the ball comes to him to be able to complete the tag.

“With plays like that, it all starts with footwork,” Tauchman said. “So trying to be consistent with how my feet line up and the timing of that. I think the timing of your footwork and your momentum kind of creates the timing with your arm, and that allows you to get some accuracy and carry on the ball.”

The Cubs signed Bellinger during the offseason in part for his defense in the outfield, but he has played first base since his return. There are multiple reasons for that, but one of those is that Tauchman has provided such value in center field.

He is picking up his share of the load at the plate, as well. Minutes after making the play to end the top of the first, Tauchman led off the bottom half of the frame with a first-pitch solo home run.

“That’s just one of the baseball god things,” said. “You make a sick play to end an inning, [then] you lead off the next inning with a big hit or a homer. ... He’s been awesome for us ever since he came up.”

Tauchman’s overall performance (.767 OPS in 27 games) has earned manager David Ross’ trust, as well. Ross has used Tauchman as his leadoff hitter seven times this season, including the last two games of the Orioles series.

“I put him up there because the on-base is significant,” Ross said. “It’s a quality at-bat. We talked about it in Spring Training, it’s quiet, it just seems like he controls the strike zone really well, [and] he’s a good baserunner.”

Tauchman drew a walk and stole a base in the fifth inning Sunday, raising his on-base percentage to .408 and his stolen-base total to three. He also got caught looking at strike three in the seventh inning, when the Cubs had runners on first and second with a chance to tie the game.

Tauchman has been in the Majors since 2017 -- logging time with the Rockies, Yankees and Giants -- and is getting an extended look with the Cubs now in part because first-base prospect Matt Mervis’ struggles earned him a return to Triple-A Iowa when Bellinger was activated.

As he was when he was first called up, Tauchman is in a position to keep his name in the lineup and on the big league roster. He has played a valuable role with the Cubs, who have won seven of their last nine games and each of their last three series.

“I asked him what he had for breakfast this morning because I needed that kind of energy,” Ross joked after Tauchman’s performance Sunday. “He’s been doing a really nice job for us, filling in for [Bellinger]. He’s just a good ballplayer.”

With the NL Central as bunched up as it is -- only four games separate the Cubs from the Brewers, Reds and Pirates -- Chicago needs contributions from every part of the roster as it heads on a road trip through Pittsburgh and London to face the Bucs and Cardinals.

“It’s extremely important. We’ve got five division games coming up right here,” Tauchman said. “It’s kind of that cool point in the season where everybody’s in it. Everybody’s in the race. These games are incredibly important, and we’ll be ready to go.”