- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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NEW YORK -- Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart is serving a 10-game suspension without pay for violating the loyalty clause in his contract, according to a team official. The 10-game suspension, which came after he ranted on Twitter on Monday about his status within the organization, began Wednesday.
Stewart was answering questions from fans online late Monday and was asked whether he would return to the Cubs soon. He responded "probably never" before following up with: "I said that be because the cubs are done With me....there (sic) going to let me Rott (sic) in AAA all season and then non tender me after."
He later added: "I meant they might as Well release since I have no shot of a call up....let me Sign elsewhere."
Stewart also tweeted that he didn't expect to return to Chicago because he believes Cubs manager Dale Sveum doesn't like him and he makes the calls. Sveum disagreed with that notion Tuesday.
"I was all on board bringing him back and giving him another chance to prove what he could do at the big league level and with the Cubs, and obviously it didn't work out," Sveum said, according to CSNChicago.com.
Stewart, 28, was traded to the Cubs in 2011 and re-signed with the team this offseason. Last year, Stewart hit .201 with a .292 on-base percentage while hitting five homers and driving in 17 runs. He was limited to just 55 games because of a wrist injury, and staying healthy has been problematic. He was slowed down during spring training by a left quad injury this year, keeping him off the Opening Day roster. After a rehab window closed in May, the team chose not to promote Stewart and instead optioned him to Triple-A. Stewart is hitting .168 with five homers and 20 RBIs in Triple-A.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Tuesday the two sides are talking about working out a way for Stewart to leave the team while giving the Cubs salary relief. Stewart has a one-year, $2 million deal.
Epstein also said Stewart had his chance to be a free agent and the team has received great production thus far at the hot corner.
"He had the right to elect free agency and he chose not to," Epstein said earlier this week in reference to Stewart having that option after the team didn't promote him following the rehab stint. "Currently, we have the second-best production out of third base in the league. We are getting really good defense at third base, too.
"If that were to change and Ian would excel at the Triple-A level, we would consider calling him back up here. In the meantime, we are very happy with our production at third and Ian is working on trying to figure out Triple-A pitching."
Stewart's agent, Larry Reynolds, issued a statement saying he believes it would work out best if the Cubs were to release Stewart. Stewart tweeted that he wouldn't just ask for his release, writing: "why would I quit? I'm making 2 mill in AAA like u would give that up by quitting."
"I have spoken to both Ian and Theo regarding Ian's tweets last night. Ian is very apologetic for venting his frustrations with his situation in that manner," Reynolds said in the statement. "He has apologized to the Cubs organization and does not want to be a further distraction. With that being said, if the Cubs don't have Ian in their plans, I feel it is in the best interests of both parties for the Cubs to release him and end this relationship."
The Cubs have used five players at third base this season, with Luis Valbuena making the majority of the starts, including Friday's series opener against the Mets. Valbuena is hitting .235 with six homers and 18 RBIs this year. Cody Ransom, Brent Lillibridge, Steve Clevenger and Alberto Gonzalez have also started games at third for the Cubs.
Stewart, a career .232 hitter, has since apologized for his tweets.
"I let my frustrations get the best of me and in no way want to be a distraction," he tweeted.
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