Almora realizes dream with Cubs callup

Outfielder replaces Soler, who goes on DL with left hamstring strain

Almora realizes dream with Cubs callup

PHILADELPHIA -- The Cubs called up highly-rated prospect Albert Almora on Tuesday to take the place of outfielder Jorge Soler, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain.

Almora wasn't in the starting lineup for Tuesday's 3-2 loss against the Phillies, but he did make his Major League debut. The outfielder pinch-hit for Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks in the top of the sixth inning, grounding out to third base.

Soler sustained the injury running to first base on a third-inning single in Monday's win over the Phillies. The Cubs don't know the exact severity of the strain and will find more out as he begins to rehab the injury.

Almora strolled into the Cubs' clubhouse after arriving on the second team bus to the ballpark. Kris Bryant was the first player to greet him with a hug, and the beaming Almora didn't miss a single teammate.

"It's a dream come true," Almora said. "Twenty-two years old, and I've been playing baseball since I was 4 years old. This is what every kid dreams about."

Almora then moved on to manager Joe Maddon's office.

"He said, 'How ya doing?' and I said, 'I'm ready,'" Almora said.

The 22-year-old outfielder wasn't in the starting lineup Tuesday. Bryant shifted from third base to left field, with Tommy La Stella getting the nod at the hot corner.

Maddon doesn't want Almora sitting for an extended period of time. He declined to speak specifically about Almora's role but said he will play all three outfield positions. Almora has played primarily center field, but he said he is comfortable in the corner spots, too.

Almora is the Cubs' No. 5 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com. He's been lauded for his defensive ability since Chicago drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2012. But Almora's bat has only begun to come around in Triple-A this season.

In 54 games with Triple-A Iowa, the 22-year-old outfielder is hitting .318 with 18 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases. Almora has also scored 33 runs and driven in 30. His OPS (.779) is the highest it's been since he posted an .842 mark in Class A ball three year ago.

"They worked on driving the ball more," Maddon said of Almora's tweaks at Triple-A. "I thought he'd been a good line-drive hitter in Spring Training the past two years. But now what I'm hearing is there's a little more drive in the ball."

Almora, a Miami native, didn't have any friends or family at Citizens Bank Park for his debut. Triple-A manager Marty Pevey called him after Monday's game and told him to be ready to go to Philadelphia, pending Soler's MRI results.

Almora immediately phoned his parents, waking up his mother. They talked, but chose to let his father, Albert Sr., sleep. The elder Almora is currently going through radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

After Pevey called him back with the definite word, though, "I said, 'You gotta wake him up. I've got some news,'" Almora said.

Almora didn't get a wink of sleep Monday night. After he woke Albert Sr., with the news, the two stayed up talking about both baseball and life.

Now he's with the Cubs, "just here to help the team win, no matter what."

Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.