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La Stella to Minors as Cubs keep 8 in 'pen

Special to MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Chicago manager Joe Maddon gave another endorsement to the eight-man bullpen concept Saturday when infielder Tommy La Stella was activated from the bereavement list and optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

"I kind of like it," Maddon said of carrying an extra pitcher instead of an extra utility player. "I prefer eight guys if possible. There is greater potential negative impact to beating up your bullpen than being caught short on the bench."

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CINCINNATI -- Chicago manager Joe Maddon gave another endorsement to the eight-man bullpen concept Saturday when infielder Tommy La Stella was activated from the bereavement list and optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

"I kind of like it," Maddon said of carrying an extra pitcher instead of an extra utility player. "I prefer eight guys if possible. There is greater potential negative impact to beating up your bullpen than being caught short on the bench."

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La Stella, 28, had been on the bereavement list since April 17 due to the death of his grandmother. He had played in six games for the Cubs, batting 1-for-4 with a double and two walks.

Designating reserve outfielder Matt Szczur for assignment was a possibility to allow La Stella to return. But, because Szczur is out of Minor League options, he would have been exposed to waivers and likely claimed by another team.

"It really comes down to the fact Tommy had an option and Matt did not," Maddon said. "If you choose to keep Tommy and set Matt free, that could come back to bite you relatively quickly."

The Cubs also have two other left-handed hitters on the bench, Miguel Montero and Jon Jay. Maddon said he also considers Jake Arrieta a pinch-hitting option on days he is not the starting pitcher, as he was Saturday.

"I prefer trying to manipulate the bench somehow with double-switches when necessary," Maddon said. "I'd rather do that than be caught short with pitching or having a pitcher throw too often -- especially in a really bad moment where you don't have a solid chance to win the game and you start making guys throw on those days. That eventually gets you also."

Noteworthy

Second baseman Ben Zobrist was held out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game Saturday with stiffness in his back. Maddon said Zobrist was available to pinch-hit and could return to the field as soon as Sunday.

Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Saturday.

Chicago Cubs, Tommy La Stella