Thursday, July 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Ex-Ray Jason Hammel, Matt Szczur not playing but feel like part of Cubs' success

All work and no play hardly has made Jason Hammel and Matt Szczur dull boys.

Both played all season with the Cubs only to be left off the postseason roster for the Division and League Championship series.

Szczur still has found a way to play a role in the team's playoff success. His lumber has been credited for waking Anthony Rizzo from his postseason offensive slumber. His compression underpants were given the same due when Addison Russell began wearing them the day he suddenly starting hitting again.

Szczur, a backup outfielder, hit .261 as a pinch-hitter this season and .259 with five home runs and 24 RBIs overall.

Hammel, who pitched for the Rays under current Cubs manager Joe Maddon, won a career-high 15 games and had a 3.83 ERA in 30 starts. He made potato chips famous again when he said this season he ate them to help keep him hydrated.

Both men still will get dressed for work for every World Series game, whether or not they're on the roster. Both still will go about their regular pregame routines, just as they did during the first two rounds.

But with Kyle Schwarber's possible return from injury, the likelihood of either playing again this year seems slim.

"During the game I feel like I'm way more nervous now than when I'm playing because I can't do anything to help the team," Szczur said. "I'm kind of handcuffed. I walk around and my stomach is in knots. These are my guys; I want to be out there, though."

But he understands why he hasn't been.

Hammel, too.

This isn't the first time the right-hander has been left off a postseason roster on a team managed by Maddon. Hammel was an odd man out during the 2008 postseason when he watched from the sideline as the Rays advanced to the World Series.

"Obviously we want to be out there, but I wouldn't say it's frustrating," Hammel said. "It's quite entertaining to watch the guys go and do their business. … If we're called upon, we'll be ready."

Hammel said Maddon told him before the Division Series he wouldn't be on the roster and to stay ready. Hammel wasn't surprised when he had no such talk with Maddon before the Championship Series.

"It's not like the season's over," he said. "You still feel like you're a part of it; you want to be a little more a part of it. We'd be home sitting on our couch if we really didn't matter."

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said he felt compassion for his teammates, who have become cheerleaders with good seats.

"Everybody wants to play," Bryant said. "It stinks that there's only 25 people (on the roster). … It's a business. It's a decision they have to make and we have to live with.

"They haven't changed anything. Their attitude is the same as it's always been."

And there hasn't been a dull moment as far as Hammel and Szczur are concerned.

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