Joe Maddon on Tommy La Stella return: 'I was witnessing a team at its best'

CHICAGO -- The Cubs recalled infielder Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, weeks after La Stella failed to report to the minors after he was sent down at the end of July.

La Stella, 27, told ESPN that he contemplated retirement if he couldn't play for the Cubs' major league team, though he stressed that he wasn't upset with management for sending him down, as he was simply caught in a number's game.

On Wednesday, La Stella addressed his teammates and tried to further explain his motivations, beginning with his enjoyment of the game of baseball.

"It has changed," he said. "It dates back to last year. It has changed a little bit. It's not nearly as enjoyable going out and pursuing for myself. My at-bats, how I'm doing, everything like that, I got a taste of that last year. Baseball is a team game played by individuals ... for me, it's kind of what detracted from my enjoyment of the game in the first place. This year was not about that.

"It was kind of about going back to the way I used to play it, when it was more enjoyable in high school and college. When you were going for something collectively as a group, and you can share in your teammates' successes as though it was your own. This year was a lot better for me."

Cubs management decided to work with La Stella instead of punishing him for not reporting right away.

"Under different circumstances, we would have taken punitive action, but after talking to him and taking the time to understand where he was coming from, things that happened to him in the past, what his thought process was, I didn't think it was appropriate to be punitive," Cubs president Theo Epstein said. "I thought it was more appropriate to be supportive to a point."

After he went home to New Jersey at the beginning of August, the team placed La Stella on the inactive list. After about two weeks, La Stella decided to report to Double-A Tennessee and then to Iowa before he was recalled Wednesday. He didn't reveal publicly all his reasons for staying away, but he opened up to his teammates.

Manager Joe Maddon said it was best to use "common sense" in dealing with La Stella and said he is pleased with the outcome.

"I thought I was witnessing a team at its best," Maddon said of the meeting. "[He] went away for a bit, came back, talked to the guys, welcomed him back. I think everything worked properly.

"Tommy is a thoughtful young man who thought a different way in this particular moment. Let's try to get to the root of it, and we did."

La Stella was in the starting lineup Wednesday, batting seventh and playing second base. He went 0-for-2 in the Cubs' 6-5 win, but he could be an important left-handed bat for the Cubs as they near the playoffs. He feels fortunate that the team was understanding but said he was prepared for the worst, including a release.

"I didn't expect anything, but that was a very real possibility that I was fully prepared for," La Stella said. "Theo is a very special guy. I was very fortunate to have the dialogue between me and him throughout this whole process. He understands people."

Pitcher Spencer Patton was sent down to make room for La Stella, who was hitting .295 with a .388 on-base percentage before his demotion.