Miguel Amaya seizing latest chance with Cubs

This story is an excerpt from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, Click here. And subscribe to to receive it regularly in your inbox.

SAN DIEGO — As baseball left Miguel Amaya’s bat Sunday afternoon and headed for spots behind the left field wall at Petco Park, he thought about the first home run he had ever hit. He was eight years old and was participating in a tournament in his hometown in Panama.

“It felt so good,” Amaya said with a smile.

That was different. The two-run shot Amaya fired in the third inning of the Cubs’ 7-1 win over the Padres was the first smash of his major league career. It came after an up-and-in fastball from right-hander Drew Carlton and was part of a three-hit day for the rookie catcher.

Amaya, 24, was recalled by Triple-A Iowa Saturday to give Chicago an extra right-hander off the bench and a third catch behind veterans Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart. Amaya was added to Sunday’s lineup as batsman-designate and manager David Ross plans to put him behind the plate in upcoming games as well.

“He’s proven he’s capable of taking the chances he’s given,” Ross said. “He handled the pitching team really well. So we’re just giving him another opportunity to get in the game, continue to establish himself in the big league, be in a winner-heavy environment and just keep advancing his career and help us win ball games. I think that’s what counts.”

In his six-game stint with the Cubs in May — while Gomes was on MLB’s concussion list — Amaya arrived from Double-A Tennessee and led the Cubs team to a 2.32 ERA on catches. He batted .231 but converted a series of hard-hit balls into unlucky outs during that time. According to Statcast, Amaya put five balls in play that came in at over 100 mph, but they resulted in outs. In fact, the three hits he amassed had exit speeds of 68 mph and 67.4 mph (twice).

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“A lot of times, especially young guys,” said Cubs starter Marcus Stroman, “you see guys just going through all the ups and downs.” And Amaya is a guy who’s just so cool and composed every day. You can tell – it’s like a veteran presence. It’s something you pick up over the years, but some guys have it when they’re young. And he does.”

Amaya hit .273 with an OPS of 1,070 in 13 games at Double-A level before moving up to the majors, and then hit .313 with an OPS of .929 in 15 games for Triple-A Iowa before last at called the show. The experience at the center – the in-game moments and the behind-the-scenes preparation with the Cubs team – gave him a lot to take back to the Minors.

“Ever since I was sent down,” Amaya said, “it’s been in my head, ‘I’m a big player. Why not play as a big league player? That’s all I did. Play hard, help my pitchers, help my team, get out there and have fun.”

Given that his major league career to date is small sample, Amaya’s performance on Sunday (two singles, a home run and a hit-by-pitch) boosted his season tally significantly. He started the day with a 59 wRC+ and left Petco Park on Sunday with a 176 wRC+ in the majors.

“I can’t find the words to explain it,” Amaya said of his first career leap. “But I felt it as my first home run as a kid. As I ran the bases and watched everyone pitch in for the home run, I thought that my parents were probably hopping around at home. It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”


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