Ryan Sweeney produces as replacement for injured David DeJesus
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com June 23, 2013 8:06PM
Updated: July 25, 2013 6:42AM
Baseball is notorious for giving opportunities to some at the expense of others.
It could turn out that way for outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who has been on a hitting tear since stepping in when center fielder David DeJesus suffered a shoulder injury in New York eight days ago.
“You never like to see an injury like what happened to David [colliding with the outfield wall], but you just have to be ready to play,’’ Sweeney said. “I’ve been playing every day since that happened and just trying to do my best.’’
His career best came Sunday in a six-RBI day, leading a 14-6 rout for the Cubs against the Houston Astros.
It was the most runs the Cubs scored this year, with a season-high 16 hits as well, and it gave the team its first series victory at Wrigley Field since May 29-30, when they defeated the White Sox.
But for Sweeney, who had two doubles and a three-run homer, it also could mean a door opening to a long-sought goal.
“I haven’t been able to play every day the last couple of years so I’ve always been looking for the opportunity to be an every-day player again,’’ he said. “You get more in a groove and you get your swing and you work on things when you’re an every-day player.’’
For the former White Sox second-round draft pick, hitting has been strength, especially in his time with the Oakland Athletics from 2008 to 2011. But he has been a reliable defensive player as well — something that was a plus for the Cubs when they signed him to a minor-league deal April 3 after his release by the Boston Red Sox.
“We always knew he could hit, but he’s playing a great center field,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. “He’s a two-way player and a left-handed hitter who can hit it a long way, and a heck of an outfielder. He’s what we lacked in the organization in a left-handed bat.’’
Sweeney, 28, had been producing well even in part-time roles since being promoted from Class AAA Iowa on May 6.
After Sunday’s explosion, he is hitting .309 with three homers and 13 RBI. With DeJesus expected to miss as much as a month recovering from the shoulder strain, Sweeney has become even more valuable.
But in the precarious world of the rebuilding Cubs, he could also become a valuable player at the trade deadline, just as Jeff Baker and Geovany Soto were last season.
For now, he is riding a three-game hitting streak in which he has gone 5-for-11 (.455), and he helped lead the charge Sunday on a good hitting day for the whole team.
Anthony Rizzo was right behind Sweeney in production, going 3-for-3 with a double and two-run homer (12th) and four RBI.
Outfielder Nate Schierholtz — who has been the steadiest bat on the team — also had three hits and two RBI.
Alfonso Soriano added a triple and double, Darwin Barney went 2-for-5 and Luis Valbuena had a triple, all in support of Jeff Samardzija (5-7).
“Getting through the lineup the first time and keeping the pitch count down was huge,’’ said Samardzija, who worked seven innings, giving up four runs but only three earned on nine hits without a walk. He struck out five.
“You always want to pick up your team,’’ he added. “They were getting a workout running the bases. You like sitting back and watching that.’’