Chicago Cubs roster moves: Kyle Hendricks and Drew Smyly go on IL, while Hayden Wesneski and Matt Mervis are brought up

Matt Mervis has not been dwelling on when his next big-league opportunity would arrive.

So, the 26-year-old slugger was a little surprised by his promotion Tuesday, part of six roster moves the Chicago Cubs made before their series opener against the Houston Astros.

Mervis struggled in 99 plate appearances last season, producing a .167/.242/.289 slash line and 43 OPS+. He was off to a stellar start with Triple-A Iowa, slugging five home runs and six doubles in 18 games. He has continued to show the patient approach that earned him his shot last year with a .402 on-base percentage and 1.009 OPS.

Mervis better understands how opposing big-league pitchers will likely attack him, however, the growth on the mental side of the game is what he expects to provide big dividends this time around.

“I think I probably did a little bit,” Mervis said of letting his struggles get to him last season. “Probably got in my own way at times, overthinking and just not letting the game come to me.”

Mervis will get opportunities against right-handers and was in the lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday versus Astros starter J.P. France. Manager Craig Counsell expects Mervis’ experience of 27 games in the majors last year to pay off in addition to the different expectations surrounding his arrival and how he can help offensively.

“A normal kind of first stint in the big leagues where it didn’t go necessarily the way he wanted,” Counsell said. “I think it’s a little different this time, hopefully.”

Right-hander Hayden Wesneski and left-hander Luke Little were also recalled from Triple-A Iowa. First baseman/DH Garrett Cooper was designated for assignment.

Wesneski and Little were able to be recalled before their required 15 days in the minors because of injuries to right-hander Kyle Hendricks and left-hander Drew Smyly (right hip impingement), who both went on the 15-day injured list.

Related Articles

Counsell said Hendricks’ back initially bothered him during his pregame bullpen Sunday, he felt it as his outing progressed and then reported the pain to the Cubs following his start. Hendricks’ IL stint comes amid an awful beginning to his season, owning an MLB-worst 12.00 ERA among starters with at least 20 innings.

“I mean, we’ve got to get past an injury first and then put our heads together on a plan to get him pitching better, essentially,” Counsell said.

Smyly’s hip had been nagging him since last week in Arizona, leading Counsell to stay away from him for a couple of days before bringing him in Sunday when he again felt the discomfort.

Wesneski impressed in his brief call-up last week when a long travel day ended in four shutout innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks by allowing just one hit, no walks and striking out two. Counsell called it the pitching performance of the Cubs’ season. With Hendricks’ rotation spot not coming up until this weekend in Boston, Counsell is not yet committing to who will take that start beyond saying the Cubs have options. Those choices should predominately include Wesneski and right-hander Ben Brown.

Cooper made the most of his opportunities in his bench role, including three extra-base hits, a .341 OBP and a 115 OPS+ in 41 plate appearances, but Patrick Wisdom’s return at the beginning of the homestand gave the Cubs two players with similar hitter profiles who also play the same positions. With a stretch of right-handed starters coming up, Mervis’ lefty bat gives the Cubs more options.