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Caratini could come off IL as early as Thursday

Third-string catcher Davis built strong rapport with Darvish in Caratini's absence
@MLBastian
May 15, 2019

CINCINNATI -- The Cubs have appreciated what Taylor Davis has added to the team over the past month. Not only did the third-string catcher deliver a grand slam on May 4 that will go down as one of the highlights of the season, but he established a great rapport with

CINCINNATI -- The Cubs have appreciated what Taylor Davis has added to the team over the past month. Not only did the third-string catcher deliver a grand slam on May 4 that will go down as one of the highlights of the season, but he established a great rapport with enigmatic starter Yu Darvish.

Davis was behind the plate to catch Darvish one more time on Wednesday night in Cincinnati, but the backup catching role will soon be returned to Victor Caratini. Prior to Wednesday's game against the Reds, Cubs manager Joe Maddon noted that Caratini could be activated from the 10-day injured list as early as Thursday. If not, expect that move to come during Chicago's upcoming series against the Nationals.

"It could be as early as tomorrow," Maddon said Wednesday. "But no final discussion there, yet."

Caratini sustained a left hand injury (fractured hamate bone) on April 11, but underwent what has become a relatively routine surgery and made swift progress in his rehab. Caratini played three consecutive games for Triple-A Iowa between Sunday and Tuesday, starting the first two games in that series of contests at catcher before getting work in at first base in the other game.

Caratini, who hit .571 (8-for-14) in six games before being shelved with the injury, has appeared in nine Minor League rehab games between Class A South Bend and Iowa.

With first baseman Anthony Rizzo dealing with a back issue -- he has been out of the lineup for three straight games -- Caratini would also offer a backup at first. At the moment, third baseman Kris Bryant has been filling in for Rizzo, who took some swings in the indoor batting cage Wednesday and could be available as a pinch-hitter if absolutely necessary, per Maddon.

Rizzo might not be back in the lineup until Friday against the Nationals.

"That's how I'm anticipating this right now," Maddon said. "But he's feeling better. He is."

Maddon complimented the work that Davis has done behind the scenes and behind the plate with Darvish during his time with the Major League club. Their partnership has also helped Maddon work in days off for starting catcher Willson Contreras, who has logged an MLB-high 228 innings since Caratini went on the IL on April 12.

"They communicate well," said the manager. "They've been communicating well, and Taylor's really a wonderful student. And I just watch them interact. Part of it, quite frankly, is we've got to give Willson a day off, too, so it's just worked out well that these two guys seem to have hit it off."

Cubs respecting Zobrist's privacy

Veteran utility man Ben Zobrist has been on Major League Baseball's restricted list for the past week in order to tend to an undisclosed personal matter. The Cubs still have not announced the specifics of Zobrist's situation, but multiple reports on Wednesday, citing court documents, noted that Zobrist and his wife, Julianna, have each filed for divorce.

Maddon has described Zobrist's timeline as "indefinite" and that did not change when asked Wednesday when Zobrist might be rejoining the team.

"Honestly, I couldn't even begin to surmise that," Maddon said. "I have no idea. We totally respect the man's privacy, totally respect the man. I feel for him. ... There's no timeline involved. He will let us know."

Worth noting

• Former Cubs pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella had four more hits, including his 11th home run of the season, on Wednesday for the Angels. La Stella's season OPS climbed to .998 in the process. Maddon was jokingly asked what he was doing keeping La Stella on the bench during his years with Chicago.

"Really horrible managing on my part," Maddon said with a laugh. "No, that's awesome. Really good stuff. I'm very happy for him."

• Third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who is currently dealing with vertigo, did not make the trip to Cincinnati and he is unlikely to travel to Washington, D.C., for the Cubs' next series. First-base coach Will Venable will continue to handle the third-base duties in Butterfield's absense.

Quotable: "We've been messing with him. His WAR is going down because I'm a better replacement player." -- Bryant, on playing first base while Rizzo is sidelined

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.