Jake Goebbert stood in the cramped Wrigley Field visitors’ clubhouse Thursday afternoon before the final game of the San Diego Padres’ 3-game series with the Cubs. In between questions about Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson, he took small sips from a green paper cup with “Gatorade” printed on the outside.
Inside the cup? Hot coffee.
What the outfielder-first baseman was drinking may seem like a minute detail, but it was an interesting coincidence. In baseball circles, a “cup of coffee” is an idiom that describes the fleeting length of time some players spend in the big leagues, say, just long enough to have a quick cup of coffee.
Like all rookies, the 2006 Hampshire High School graduate is fighting to outlive the title. And in many ways he already has, with an RBI-single in the first plate appearance of his career, with his first career home run in Colorado earlier this month, and with his line-drive single at Wrigley Field on Thursday.
Padres manager Bud Black said he likes Goebbert’s versatility at first base and the corner outfield positions, as well as the blue-collar work ethic he learned on the family’s farm.
“We were hoping for an off day here,” the 57-year-old said, flashing a bright white smile. “We were going to have a field trip and take the team out there to the pumpkin patch.”
Still, no matter how much Black likes Goebbert’s attitude – not to mention his family’s homegrown vegetables – it remains unclear if the 6-foot, 205-pound ballplayer will stick with the club long term. His base hit in the sixth inning off Oak Park native Brian Schlitter should help his cause. The 1-for-5 day with three strikeouts? Not so much.
But the former Northwestern standout’s performance in his 22nd major league game is by no means the decisive factor. Goebbert admitted as much by saying, “Sticking here, that’s not necessarily in my control. I’m just going to do my best and just all of my abilities to the best of my ability”
Goebbert was promoted from Triple-A El Paso when first baseman Yonder Alonso went on the disabled list with right wrist tendinitis. Black called the Cuban-born player’s promotion back to the lineup “on the horizon.” It could come as soon as this weekend in Atlanta, but the manager stopped short of giving a hard date. The same was said about infielders Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera, who could also complicate matters.
Will Goebbert be the one sent down when they return?
“That’s a fair question,” Black conceded. “We’re working through that now. We’ll see how the roster shakes out.”
The difference between ballplayers at this level is slim, say as thin that tendon on Alonso’s right wrist. Goebbert learned this lesson first-hand from one of his best teammates on Triple-A, Jeff Francoeur, an established major leaguer for a decade who had to work his way back from Triple-A.
“I think for [Goebbert] down there, he was just like any guy in Triple-A,” the 30-year-old Francoeur said. “You’re waiting for your opportunity. You’re excited to get the chance to go up and play in the big leagues. I think for him, it was one of those things where he had to be patient and wait his turn.”
Whether Goebbert will return to the minors and continue the wait will likely be decided in the coming days. But if he is, there is a good shot he'll be back. After all, Black seemed pretty interested in seeing the farm for himself.
“Maybe it might be an offseason thing,” he said “We might rally the troops and head to the pumpkin farm.”