A pair of Cubs could be nearing a return
The Cubs are hopeful they’ll have a boost to their lineup soon.
Cody Bellinger took batting practice on Monday in San Diego with his Cubs teammates and has been doing base running drills and other baseball activities as he continues to work back from his left knee contusion he suffered last month in Houston.
“Moving around, getting better every single day,” David Ross told reporters in San Diego on Monday. “Small improvements daily. Ran around his drills out there. Things seem to be trending in the right direction, but nothing of significance to report back.”
Bellinger suffered the injury on May 15 in Houston, catching a fly ball from Kyle Tucker and robbing him of extra bases and landed on the IL not too long after that. The Cubs and Bellinger felt they avoided the “worst-case” scenario after the play but have played it safe with his return.
The next step for Bellinger, if he continues to progress well with the activities he’s currently doing, will be a return to baseball games — but whether that’s with a minor league team on a rehab assignment or with the Cubs at the major-league level is yet to be determined.
When he is back, he immediately improves the team offensively. The lefty has played near his MVP levels this season — he’s hitting .271/.337/.493 with 7 home runs, 20 RBI, 9 stolen bases and a 122 weighted runs created plus, his highest since his 2019 MVP campaign.
“Obviously, the priority is to get him fully healthy and ready to contribute,” Ross said. “We’ll collaborate with him and see what’s best for us to win baseball games and him to be healthy and have success.”
The righty reliever landed on the IL on May 15 with a right forearm strain. He’s been progressing to the point of playing catch lately and he, too, could be inching towards a return.
Boxberger threw a “touch-and-feel” on Monday in San Diego. If he recovers well, the next step could be facing live hitters.
“He’s been feeling really good,” Ross told reporters. “I wouldn’t anticipate any bad news, but I’ll talk to [pitching coach] Tommy [Hottovy] and see — we’ll get him probably one more bullpen and then maybe send him to Arizona to start seeing some [hitters] on a rehab assignment.”
Boxberger has struggled to a 5.52 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, both of which would be the highest since his 2019 campaign in Kansas City. When Boxberger landed on the IL, the righty had been dealing with a hamstring issue and that led to some bad habits being created that the Cubs believed may have led to the forearm issues.
The hope is now he can fully recover from both and return to the Cubs bullpen, giving them another veteran presence. Boxberger has been one of the most reliable relievers the last three seasons — he’s pitched to a 3.13 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 146.2 innings.