June 25, 2022
Chicago Cubs

Hot-hitting Alfonso Rivas deserves a spot in Cubs’ starting lineup

Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Rivas, right, celebrates with Jonathan Villar after hitting a three-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Chicago.

The Cubs are reeling.

Not quite as badly as the White Sox (seven straight defeats), Bulls (on the brink of elimination after two embarrassing losses), Blackhawks (3-10-2 last 15) or Bears (are you guys ever going to add a bona fide wide receiver?).

It’s not that bad for the North Siders.

But it’s close.

The Cubs were 5-3 after beating Tampa Bay April 18 at Wrigley Field, but have dropped five of six since, getting just 15 runs in those five setbacks. The lone victory was Saturday’s 21-0 blasting of Pittsburgh.

Now comes a daunting stretch that begins Tuesday in Atlanta, with the struggling Marcus Stroman (12 earned runs allowed last 8-plus inning) starting on the mound. After the series against the Braves come three games at Milwaukee (9-3 last 12), two at home against the White Sox, three at home against the Dodgers (11-4) and three at San Diego (10-7).

If the Cubs (7-9) aren’t careful they could easily be something like 11-19 on May 11.

The good news for the Cubs is they should be getting left-handed pitcher Wade Miley back in two-to-three weeks. Righty Alec Mills and shortstop Andrelton Simmons are also on the mend.

In the meantime, let’s play armchair manager and make a few suggestions to David Ross.

•No. 1 -- start Alfonso Rivas the next three or four games and see how he does with consistent at-bats. Rivas, whom the Cubs acquired from Oakland Jan. 13, 2020, is absolutely ripping the ball and deserves a longer look.

“Just a guy who’s always hit, always been consistent, very consistent personality, great defender and someone I believe in a lot,” said Nico Hoerner after Rivas went 3 for 5 with five RBIs Saturday.

Ross should start believing more too. Pull Rafael Ortega (8 for 39) out of the leadoff spot and give Rivas (6 for 12) a shot.

•With Justin Steele (9 runs the last 10 innings) struggling it’s time to put Keegan Thompson in the starting rotation.

Ross doesn’t want to do this because of how important a long reliever is in today’s game. And, no doubt, Thompson has been sensational in that role as he’s allowed zero runs in 13⅔ innings.

But Thompson’s stuff is too electric right now to be coming out of the pen. Put him in the rotation, where he can go five-to-seven innings. This gives you a better chance to win and it builds his confidence to the point where maybe he becomes the ace of your staff.

•The decision to sit Nico Hoerner against Pittsburgh on Sunday was a baffling one. While Ross wants to give everyone a break now and then, you can’t sit a guy who has gone 7 for 9 the previous two days.

When somebody’s that hot you have to give him the chance to build on that momentum.