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Chris Denorfia's return may have greater impact than minor league call-ups

Veteran Chris Denorfia has been sidelined for more than a month with a hamstring injury. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

WASHINGTON -- Even though Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon left the door open for either Javier Baez or Kyle Schwarber to join the team when they need a designated hitter as soon as Tuesday, it's still less than likely that either one will get the call.

The return of outfielder Chris Denorfia might be more "impactful" though his name doesn't bring the excitement that either Baez or Schwarber do. Name recognition doesn't win you games though.

"I will discuss that with the guys [in the front office] at more length," Maddon said Sunday before taking on the Washington Nationals. "We could add if we chose to or we could stand pat."

Maddon was specifically asked if Schwarber, a 2014 top draft pick and current Double-A catcher, was in that discussion.

"He could be," Maddon said. "Based on what he's done it would make sense that he would be. I don't know what we're willing to do. I pretty much stay out of that. If the guys think that's the right thing to do I would be on board with that."

"Could be" is a lot different than "he is" so it's still unlikely Schwarber will make the jump to the big leagues even if it might be for a short period. As Maddon admitted there's a "perfect window of opportunity" for Schwarber, who is hitting .326 with a .446 on-base percentage heading into Sunday's games.

The Cubs play in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday and are then at home for six games before heading out for two more series in American League parks at Cleveland and Minnesota.

"I am going to talk with Theo [Epstein] about all this," Maddon said.

The notion to bring Bryant up last season as a designated hitter was never a story line, despite the Cubs having an anemic offense. Why would they rush Schwarber now? And if starting Bryant's clock was part of any decision making process last season why wouldn't it be the same concern for the Double-A catcher? If you're thinking the difference is this season the team is contending then maybe you should be more excited about the return of Denorfia over a call-up of Schwarber or Baez.

What makes anyone think they'll be more successful in a 10 day window then a veteran who's already been a good hitter this year or simply one that's been in the big leagues over a rookie? We're not talking about any long term future we're talking about a few days. Plus, the Cubs under Epstein have never promoted a player from Double-A to the big leagues. They have repeatedly stated that the players need to accomplish goals at every level in the minors.

Maybe there would be more steam internally for such moves if not for Denorfia's return. He was 9-for-21 this season before a second hamstring injury sidelined him. He was activated on Sunday -- and singled in his first at-bat -- for Matt Szczur who was sent to Triple-A Iowa. He could be an important player for the Cubs while Jorge Soler recovers from an ankle injury.

"I loved him during spring training and the limited time we've had him here he's been impactful," Maddon said. "This guy can hit velocity. He works good at-bats."

That's something Baez and Schwarber have yet to prove at the big league level. Are the Cubs willing to use 10 days for curiosity or the best chance to win? The other option is to reduce their pitching staff to 12 hurlers and add a hitter. Detroit is deadly against left-handed pitching so the need for three lefties in the bullpen might not be pertinent. A little break for Zac Rosscup might make some sense. In that case, adding Baez or Schwarber for a short period of time could work -- just don't bank the Cubs fortunes over the next few weeks on the move.