'Unbelievable time' for Chirinos; Cubs ink 7

July 24th, 2021

CHICAGO -- launched a home run for the first time while wearing a Cubs uniform on July 6. Then on Friday night, the veteran catcher belted two homers in a win over the D-backs.

Chirinos was asked if playing for the Cubs has lived up to what he had pictured more than two decades ago as a young prospect in the organization.

"It's even more," Chirinos said. "You always dream and see yourself here and doing good. It's just been an unbelievable time. I'm enjoying it since the first time I walked in the clubhouse."

It was quite the circuitous path to Chicago for Chirinos.

Signed out of Venezuela on July 2, 2000, Chirinos was later traded by the Cubs to Tampa Bay in the seven-player deal in January 2011 that brought pitcher Matt Garza to the North Siders. It would be another decade before the Cubs came calling again.

"Thank God the Cubs saw what I was doing in the Minor Leagues," said the 37-year-old Chirinos, who has played in 10 MLB seasons with five teams, "and gave me a chance in the big leagues. I'm thankful for that."

After sustaining a fractured right wrist in Spring Training with the Yankees, Chirinos returned and posted a .978 OPS in 13 games between two stints with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was released by New York on July 4, and he quickly had an MLB pact with the Cubs.

Chirinos became the sixth backup catcher tested out by the Cubs, whose previous five (Tony Wolters, Austin Romine, P.J. Higgins, Jose Lobaton and Taylor Gushue) hit a combined .070/.175/.085 in 80 plate appearances, while dealing with numerous health setbacks.

Through 11 games with the Cubs, Chirinos has helped solidify that role behind starting catcher Willson Contreras. The veteran backup has hit .375/.500/1.000 through 20 plate appearances. And Chirinos is soaking up the chance to be back with his original team.

"It's something I don't take for granted," he said. "I have to keep working hard and keep being myself and keep trying to help this team every time I have the opportunity."

Cubs sign seven picks, including Triantos
Infielder James Triantos took matters into his own hands in the Class 6 state championship game in Virginia last month. Not only did the James Madison High star launch a homer and score his team's only two runs, he also struck out 12 and flirted with a perfect game.

"It was a lot of fun," said Cubs vice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz, who was in the stands with area scout Billy Swoope.

"He's a special talent. I think that just sort of put the icing on the cake. I'm happy for him, because it really sealed the deal on a pretty amazing high school career."

Now, Triantos can begin his career with the Cubs.

Chicago announced Saturday that it had signed Triantos (picked in the second round of the MLB Draft), along with six other picks. With those signings, the Cubs have now signed 16 of their 20 selections, including each player taken in the first 10 rounds.

After the Draft, Kantrovitz noted that the Cubs are keeping an open mind about whether Triantos will be developed as a third baseman or shortstop. What Chicago does know is it loved the righty-swinging infielder's bat speed, raw power and competitiveness.

"Some of the intangibles that he brings are really rare for a high school player," Kantrovitz said. "He's got a chance to be a really well-rounded player as he starts to mature and grow into his frame over the next few years."

Worth noting
• Lefty Justin Steele continued to build up as a starter for Triple-A Iowa on Friday, working four innings against Columbus. Through three starts, Steele has a 0.84 ERA with 14 strikeouts, seven walks and three hits allowed in 10 2/3 innings.

"We have a lot of high expectations for Justin Steele," said David Ross, who previously used the lefty out of the Major League bullpen. "He came up here and really made an impact on us."

• Right-hander Keegan Thompson logged three innings to close out Friday's win, marking his first professional save (Majors or Minors). It was also his first save overall since May 30, 2015, when he pitched for Auburn.

• Righties Jake Arrieta (10-day injured list, right hamstring) and Rowan Wick (60-day IL, left oblique strain) are scheduled to throw off the Wrigley Field mound to gather more data about their respective comebacks, per Ross.

"That made me smile and laugh. I don't know. It's perspective, right? Some days you feel like, as a manager and a team, and you're the leader, sometimes adversity, you lose sleep at night trying to figure out how you can impact and be better. And then you get a day like yesterday, where we win by five runs and you go out and the fans are cheering for me. It was nice." -- Ross, on being cheered by fans when he exited Wrigley Field on Friday