Cubs waiting for exiled Ian Stewart to perform
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 11, 2013 4:16PM
Ian Stewart connects for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)
Updated: May 11, 2013 5:49PM
WASHINGTON — Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday he hopes exiled third baseman Ian Stewart has a future in the organization, but the club’s actions belie Hoyer’s assertion.
Stewart hasn’t started a game for Class AAA Iowa since being passed through waivers nearly a week ago. If he doesn’t play, he can’t be shopped or earn a promotion.
“We’ve been patient with Ian for a year, and a month and a half, and Ian’s got to be patient with us at some point,” Hoyer said of the player who lasted 55 games (he hit .201 with five homers) last year before a wrist injury sidelined him and eventually required season-ending surgery.
After the Cubs released him and re-signed him for $2 million in the offseason, Stewart had his spring training wiped out by a quad strain suffered in February. A minor-league rehab stint in Iowa ran out before he showed he was anything close to being ready.
When Stewart was optioned to Iowa, he ticked off the Cubs by using his union rights to take three days away from the team before reporting. He was put on waivers, and every other club passed on him. Stewart has had two pinch-hit at-bats since.
“We’ve got to get [third baseman Josh] Vitters at-bats,” Hoyer said. “And we will play Vitters in the outfield some, too. Not allowing Vitters to play third base is a disservice to him, as well.”
Vitters is hitting .219. He was playing in the outfield before the Stewart drama unfolded.
At the big-league level, third baseman Luis Valbuena had as many home runs in six weeks as Stewart did all last season. He took an .861 OPS into the game Saturday against the Washington Nationals. But Valbuena left in the third inning after jamming his right pinkie finger and will undergo X-rays.
Asked whether there is a future for the long-buried Stewart in the organization, Hoyer wasn’t sure.
“It’s a really good question,” he said. “I hope there is. I hope he starts playing well. I do think there’s a lot of talent there. It’s been sort of an unfortunate run for us with the injuries. A left-handed hitter with power who plays good defense — I hope there’s a future with him here. But at this point, it’s going to be about performance. Potential can only take you so far, and at some point you have to perform.”