8/17/2014 12:29 A.M. ET
Cubs trying to determine reason for fan fest
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Ryan Sweeney can't explain all the strikeouts.
The Cubs batters rank second in the National League in K's, fanning 77 times in the just completed seven-game homestand. On Friday on the road, it didn't get much better as the Mets combined to strike out 14 Chicago batters.
"We've just been facing some good pitching," Sweeney said. "This game is unfair in a lot of ways. It's tough to get hits now, especially with shifts and scouting reports and replay.
"I don't know why we're striking out more," he said. "We've just been facing some good pitching and sometimes we try to do a little too much in certain situations."
Manager Rick Renteria said the high number of K's could be a matter of inexperience.
"I just want them to stay positive," he said. "You'd be surprised -- strikeouts come when you're a little passive and a little timid and you're caught in between in terms of pitches you're looking for and the zone you're trying to sit on. Those are adjustments they'll have to continue to make, and they will."
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer described this as an "extreme" stretch. He isn't counting the K's but would like to see the Cubs improve their situational hitting.
"I think you have to be able to change your approach and hit the ball to the right side, and know when a ground ball to second is as good as a single, and things like that," Hoyer said. "That's where I think we have to improve. With that, the strikeout numbers will get better. I'd be surprised looking at our players going forward that we wouldn't have strikeouts, but I also think we'll have power."
Javier Baez has contributed to the high strikeout numbers in his short time with the team. In 11 games, he's fanned 19 times, but he's also hit four home runs.
"Those guys are going to strike out, and that's going to be part of their game," Hoyer said of Baez and top prospect Kris Bryant, "but if they're doing damage I think you would think differently. As they mature, they'll learn, 'This is an at-bat where I can't strike out and I need to put the ball in play.'"
Sweeney doesn't miss Baez's at-bats.
"You never know what's going to happen or what he's going to do, so it's fun watching how hard he swings and the way he plays the game," Sweeney said. "It's not like anybody else I've played with. Watching him, you're always excited when he comes up because you never know what's going to happen."
Top prospect Bryant to have MRI on foot
NEW YORK -- Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant had to leave Saturday's game with Triple-A Iowa before the third inning after apparently aggravating a minor foot injury.
In a game at Principal Park in Des Moines, the 22-year-old third baseman drew a walk in the first against Salt Lake to load the bases. It was his only at-bat of the night. Before the third inning, Bryant headed to the Iowa clubhouse with one of the athletic trainers and did not return to the game. He was taken to a Des Moines hospital for X-rays.
A Cubs spokesman said Saturday night that X-rays on Bryant's left big toe were inconclusive. He will have an MRI on Sunday.
Hot prospect Szczur to be called up on Sunday
NEW YORK -- Outfielder Matt Szczur is headed to The Show.
Pitcher Dan Straily was added on Saturday to make a spot start, part of the Cubs' plan to give the other starters a breather. But the right-hander will rejoin Triple-A Iowa on Sunday, and Szczur will get called up to the big leagues for the first time. The Cubs optioned outfielder Junior Lake to Iowa to make room for Straily, and played short-handed on the bench Saturday in a 7-3 loss to the Mets.
It'll be a homecoming for Szczur, 25, a Cape May, N.J., native. He was batting .261 in 116 games at Iowa with 16 doubles, one triple, one home run, 24 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He was hitting .292 in 14 games this month after batting .275 in July.
A solid defensive player, Szczur also was a talented wide receiver on the Villanova football team, winning a national title in 2009.
"We talked for a long time about the move and how it fits with our team now and how it might fit in with some of the things that might happen going forward," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday.
Hoyer didn't want to comment on other players they considered for the promotion, including highly touted outfielder Jorge Soler, who was batting .243 at Iowa.
Lake sent to Triple-A in effort to regroup
NEW YORK -- It's been a struggle this season for outfielder Junior Lake, who the Cubs are hoping can get back on track playing every day at Triple-A Iowa.
Lake was optioned to Iowa to make room on the 25-man roster for pitcher Dan Straily, who started Saturday against the Mets. The outfielder was batting .216 with 102 strikeouts in 98 games. He hit .114 in July.
"We'll try to get him back on his feet again," manager Rick Renteria said. "It's tough for me to have him here. The window right now is just right" for him to go to the Minors.
Lake was told he would be back with the big league team when rosters expand on Sept. 1.
"Any time you have someone who has been with you as long as he's been with us, and you send him down late, it's obviously disappointing," Renteria said, "but I think he understands he'll get some at-bats and he knows he'll be back."
• Third baseman Luis Valbuena did not start Saturday, sidelined with a cold that apparently is running its course through the clubhouse. Renteria said he expected Valbuena back in the lineup on Sunday. The time off couldn't hurt; Valbuena was batting .233, and 0-for-8 in his last three games.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.