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Amid a burst of roster moves, Cubs formulating ideas for the future

1 year agoTony Andracki

The Cubs made a swirl of roster moves prior to Tuesday night’s game that will give the organization a glimpse into the future.

Here is the full list:

—Hayden Wesneski was called up from Triple-A Iowa
—Wade Miley and Michael Hermosillo were activated off the 60-day IL
—Willson Contreras was placed on the 10-day IL (retroactive to Sept. 3)
—Justin Steele placed on 15-day IL (retroactive to Sept. 2)
—Nicholas Padilla, Luke Farrell and Kervin Castro were designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Wesneski, Miley and Hermosillo

Wesneski is the headliner, as the Cubs are getting an up-close look at one of the organization’s top pitching prospects.

Miley started Tuesday night’s game against the Reds at Wrigley Field after nearly three months on the IL with a shoulder injury. He permitted 3 runs (2 earned) with 6 strikeouts over 4 innings.

The 35-year-old southpaw is a free agent after the season but he has already stated his desire to return to the Cubs. He has made a big impact in the clubhouse this season despite his limited availability and the Cubs are happy to see what he can provide to the rotation in the final month of the year.

Wesneski relieved Miley and went the rest of the way with an eye-popping performance — 5 shutout innings, 8 strikeouts and the win.

“Getting Wade back out there was nice,” David Ross said. “To get him back on the bump and throwing for us is a big step forward just from somebody that we care about a lot. And then Hayden to back that up with that performance was a really fun day.”

Hermosillo made the Opening Day roster but the 27-year-old outfielder hasn’t played since May 7 due to a quad injury (and also missed time with COVID). 

With Contreras, this is the same ankle he rolled during the Field of Dreams game last month. He was playing through it, but was in visible pain during last Tuesday’s game in Toronto and hasn’t played since.

The team will get some imaging on Contreras’ injured left ankle but until then, the hope is rest will do him some good.

“It’s like one step forward, two steps back kind of thing,” Ross said. “Feels better each and every day with rest. [Then he] tests it out, sore again the next day. So it just made a lot of sense with it not bouncing back, putting him on the IL, retro it for the week, let him get all the way healthy if possible, get some images of it, making sure everything’s on the up-and-up in there.

“Just get him back completely healthy. It’s hard to play at 70-80% on something like that.”

Like Miley, Contreras is also slated to be a free agent this winter and now he’s set to miss at least a week of the final month.

The Cubs also have a trio of young pitchers at varying stages of recovery from injuries.

Steele hasn’t pitched since he came out of his start early on Aug. 26 in Milwaukee with low back tightness. He was on the restricted list for the Cubs’ series in Toronto and then joined the team in St. Louis.

He threw bullpens at Wrigley last week and then again in St. Louis but wasn’t bouncing back the way they wanted it to.

“The bullpens went fine, it just wasn’t all the way loose,” Ross said. “Thought it made some sense to play it with a little bit of caution, making sure he’s 100% before we get him back. Don’t think it’s any kind of extended IL but we’ll wait and see.”

The Cubs want to make sure Steele and Keegan Thompson (who is also on the IL with a low back injury) are fully healthy before they pitch again in a big-league game.

Thompson last pitched Aug. 19 but threw live BP Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Both Thompson and Steele are at or approaching their career high in innings pitched so the Cubs will take the big picture approach over trying to be aggressive this season. But they also understand the value of having both sophomores pitch late into the season to understand what a heavier workload entails.

“I don’t think anybody would rush to panic about anything if they didn’t finish [the year],” Ross said. “I think we would like them to finish. They would like to finish. I think they would like to put a cap on their season.

“It’s important to both of those guys to finish the season and close out their last starts but we’ll obviously take that with what’s best long term.”

Jed Hoyer echoed that sentiment.

“The focus has to be getting those guys into the offseason healthy and ready to start their offseason conditioning,” the Cubs president of baseball operations said. “Neither is an injury that we’re concerned about at all, but we don’t wanna ramp up too quickly and throw them out there for no reason. We can just have them go to the offseason healthy and I think both guys have real goals this offseason they wanna reach.”

Meanwhile, Adbert Alzolay made another rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa Tuesday, allowing a run in 3 innings:

The 27-year-old has been sidelined all season with a lat/shoulder injury but this marked his 4th rehab outing and he could also make an impact down the stretch for the Cubs.

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