WASHINGTON -- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday that he hopes exiled third baseman Ian Stewart has a future in the organization, but the club's actions belie Hoyer's assertion.
Stewart hasn't started a game for Class AAA Iowa since being passed through waivers nearly a week ago. And if he doesn't play, he can't be shopped nor earn a promotion.
"We've been patient with Ian for a year, and a month and a half, and Ian's got to be patient with us at some point," Hoyer said of the third baseman, who lasted just 55 games (.201, five homers) last year before a wrist injury sidelined him and eventually required season-ending surgery.
After the Cubs released him and re-signed him for $2 million in the off-season, Stewart had his spring training wiped out by a quad strain suffered in February. And a minor-league rehab stint in Iowa ran out before he showed he was anything close to being ready.
Stewart then was optioned to Iowa, ticked off the club by using his union rights to take three days away from the team before reporting, and was placed on waivers. The 29 other clubs passed on him, and he has two pinch-hit at-bats since.
"We've got to get [third baseman Josh] Vitters at-bats," Hoyer said of the .219-hitting Vitters who was playing in the outfield before the Stewart drama unfolded. "And we will play Vitters in the outfield, some, too. Not allowing Vitters to play third base is a disservice to him as well."
At the big-league level, third-baseman Luis Valbuena had as many home runs in six weeks as Stewart did all last season and took an .861 OPS into Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals.
Asked whether there is a future for the long-buried Stewart with the organization, Hoyer said:
"I'm not sure. It's a really good question. I hope there is. I hope he starts playing well. I do think there's a lot of talent there. It's been sort of an unfortunate run for us with the injuries. A left-handed hitter with power who plays good defense - I hope there's a future with him here. But at this point it's going to be about performance. Potential can only take you so far, and at some point you have to perform."