Almora staying up depends on playing time

Cubs rookie likely heading back to the Minors when Soler comes off the DL

Almora staying up depends on playing time

WASHINGTON -- Albert Almora Jr. has made a great first impression since he was promoted from Triple-A Iowa, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon knows the team will have a tough decision to make when Jorge Soler returns from a left hamstring injury.

"A guy like Albert, you want to give him the opportunity for playing time, you don't want him to sit," Maddon said on Wednesday of the rookie outfielder. "He's still in the developmental stage. He's a good player. I think you can only see [him staying with the team] if you thought you could get him in games on a regular basis."

Soler is sidelined with a hamstring strain and isn't eligible to come off the disabled list until June 22. Maddon did not have an update on Soler's rehab, since the outfielder was getting treatment in Chicago while the team was on the road.

Almora delivered a tie-breaking RBI double in the ninth inning on Tuesday night in the Cubs' 4-3 win over the Nationals.

"It was a big moment for him," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "He's going to remember that moment. That's his big league moment so far. He won the game for us there. I know a lot of other things had to come into play, but it's big for him and good for us."

Almora is a better defensive outfielder than Soler, and Maddon does like defense. Could he be convinced to keep Almora?

"Look at the big picture," Maddon said. "Where are we going to be at that time? What's our record? What's going on? At the end of the day, it will be about what's best for him. You don't want him to sit. There's too many moving parts for me to be concerned about it. I love him out there. Those are the kind of questions where you have to wait for the moment."

Worth noting

• In the ninth inning on Saturday in Atlanta, Kris Bryant was intentionally walked for the first time in his young career. The Cubs had one out, a runner at second and an 8-2 lead over the Braves at that point. Bryant recognized the milestone and told first-base coach Brandon Hyde.

"I said, 'I think that's my first intentional walk, let me get that ball,'" Bryant said. "I was just joking around. I should've gotten the ball."

The tactic worked, as southpaw Hunter Cervenka struck out Rizzo and Ben Zobrist to end the ninth.

"Nowadays, with the whole matchup thing, everybody's big on that," Bryant said of the rationale for the move. "I don't think it's a trend. Anthony's shown in the past that he can hit lefties very well."

Maybe it's a show of respect for Bryant?

"In my second year here, I hope I'm showing what I can do, and hopefully earning the respect of other teams and other players," Bryant said. "It's nice to see that sometimes. I don't look into it as a thing that will occur very often, because we have so many good players on this team. You have to pick who you want to pitch to."

• The Cubs signed left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz to a Minor League contract. He was designated for assignment by the Braves on May 24, and released on June 1. Matusz had spent his entire career with the Orioles. Maddon said he's seen the lefty pitch very well, and also struggle.

"I don't know where he's at mentally," Maddon said. "Physically, I heard he's doing pretty well. It's really an interesting sign. When this guy gets good, he's really good."

Matsuz was expected to go to the Cubs' facility in Mesa, Ariz., and be evaluated.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.