Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella ready for big challenge

SAN FRANCISCO -- Chicago Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella might not qualify for rookie status, but his 328 career at-bats don’t exactly make him a grizzled veteran, either. Back from an oblique injury, he’s being dropped into a playoff race with exactly three major league games played this season, including Monday’s contest against the Cleveland Indians -- his first big league action since April 8.

“I’m ready to go,” La Stella said before taking the field against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. “The time in [Triple-A] Iowa and [Double-A] Tennessee was great for me to get the timing back and my legs back.”

La Stella has seemingly been on a rehab assignment for the better part of five months after injuring and then re-injuring an oblique. But when Jorge Soler went down with an oblique injury of his own, La Stella got the call to take his place in the lineup. The musical chairs has Chris Coghlan moving to right field against right-handers while La Stella will play his natural position of second base. Is he ready for prime time?

“You can have as many at-bats as you want in the minor leagues but it’s a different story up here,” La Stella said. “A lot of it was getting my timing down. That’s ongoing as I get my feet wet again.”

He won’t have much time to get up to speed, but part of the reason the Cubs liked La Stella when they traded for him last winter was his ability to take a walk. He showed it in his minor league career -- he had 143 walks to 106 strikeouts -- and even if his timing is a little off at the plate right now, he’s hopeful he can keep the line moving just as Soler was doing. And he feels fortunate to be healthy and needed at the right time as the Cubs have been on a second-half roll.

“The energy and excitement surrounding this team, it’s awesome,” he said. “I’m very lucky to be back at the time I am and be a part of it.”