Who is Taylor Gushue? Getting to know the Cubs’ newest backup catcher
MILWAUKEE — The Cubs are on to Plan E now in terms of their backup catcher.
Jose Lobaton was injured on the final play of Tuesday night’s game in Milwaukee, spraining his right shoulder as he landed on it awkwardly following a play at first base.
He was placed on the 60-day injured list Wednesday morning and in his stead, the Cubs selected the contract of Taylor Gushue.
Lobaton joins Austin Romine (wrist) and P.J. Higgins (forearm/elbow) on the 60-day IL and Tony Wolters also spent some time in the big leagues before he was designated for assignment in mid-May.
Walking off the field Tuesday night, David Ross and Willson Contreras looked at each other and shook their head as they watched another Cubs backup catcher walk off the field in pain.
“Loby has done nothing but be ready, worked his tail off,” Ross said. “You see a guy go down like that and then get out there and see the facial expressions and the emotions, it’s just tough. Looked like a pretty severe sprain. He was in some real pain.”
The Cubs initially signed Romine over the winter in hopes that the veteran could fill in as Contreras’ backup. But he dealt with a knee injury in spring training and shortly after he returned from that, he hurt his left wrist.
Higgins first felt pain in his arm on a throw in San Diego earlier this month and a subsequent MRI revealed a pretty serious elbow injury.
Wolters cleared waivers after he was DFA’d and has been playing in Triple-A Iowa over the last couple of months but the Cubs opted for Gushue in hopes of adding a bit more offense while Kris Bryant (side) and Anthony Rizzo (back) are day-to-day.
Gushue, 27, will be making his MLB debut whenever he gets into a game. The Cubs signed the switch-hitting backstop to a minor-league deal over the winter and were impressed with his at-bats in spring training.
“Good attitude, good at-bat,” Ross said. “I think probably offense over defense a little bit. But he’s played some first – that gives us some flexibility of moving things around in the game. I really like the left-handed swing.
“I thought it was a poised, professional at-bat [in spring], especially in situations where he was coming off the bench a lot and it was a real sporadic opportunity to play in spring training. Good guy, good human. Glad he’s here to help us out in a tough situation.”
Gushue was 1-for-14 with a double and a pair of walks in spring training but also saw a lot of at-bats in live BPs and intrasquad scrimmages.
He homered and doubled Tuesday night for Iowa and is slashing .272/.328/.440 (.768 OPS) in Triple-A this season.
Gushue hit .312 with an .875 OPS and 11 homers in 74 games during his last full minor league season (2019). He was initially drafted in the 4th round by the Pirates and also spent a few years in the Nationals system before signing with the Cubs.
If the Cubs are hit with another injury at catcher, they might turn to the coaches to step up. Between Ross, Chad Noble (bullpen catcher), Mike Napoli (quality assurance) and Craig Driver (catching/first base), the staff is packed with former catchers.
“There was a discussion in there,” Ross joked. “Noble said he’ll catch if Nap will hit. I think that’s where we’re at right now if anybody else goes down.”