Cubs formulating next steps with Seiya Suzuki out due to oblique injury
MARYVALE, Ariz. — Seiya Suzuzi won’t be suiting up for Team Japan in the upcoming World Baseball Classic and the Cubs are trying to determine next steps for their starting outfield with Opening Day a month away.
Suzuki was scratched from Saturday’s Cactus League opener with a left oblique injury and after imaging, it has been confirmed he has a “moderate” strain. The Cubs don’t have a timeline for when Suzuki will be able to return to the field but he pulled out of the WBC Monday night and is expected to miss several weeks recovering.
For now, Suzuki will rest and let the inflammation and pain go away before he and the Cubs have more clarity on when he can make a return.
“I think it’s one of those things where we’ll put the plan in place, react to how he’s feeling, let him build back up,” David Ross said. “The goal is to get him back when he’s fully healthy and can really contribute and help us. These oblique things are pretty tricky. We’ll make sure we’re listening to his body and talking to docs.”
Suzuki said he felt “shocked” at having to pull out of the WBC.
“It’s really unfortunate that it had to come down to this decision,” he said through translator Toy Matsushita. “I know a lot of people were excited to see me out there playing. … I feel bad to do this last minute.”
He said he still plans to watch Team Japan and root them on but he is also grateful that the injury popped up with a month remaining in Spring Training.
“I’m glad it wasn’t something that came upon right before Opening Day,” Suzuki said. “We have a long season so if I’m going to play all 162 games, then I want to be ready 100%.”
After his rookie season in the majors, Suzuki set about adding bulk this winter. He showed up to camp with about 20 pounds of added muscle but then felt some tightness in his oblique during a swing in batting practice before Saturday’s game.
Suzuki is an important part of the Cubs in 2023 and beyond and oblique injuries are unpredictable, so the team will be cautious with the outfielder.
Nico Hoerner dealt with an oblique injury in the second half of 2021, missed over a month-and-a-half and then reaggravated the issue shortly after he returned and had to be shut down for the remainder of the season. It’s a different situation, but the Tampa Bay Rays announced Tuesday pitcher Tyler Glasnow is slated to miss 6-8 weeks with a strained oblique.
“I’m sad for him that he doesn’t get to represent his country,” Ross said. “I know that was important for him. Things happen and injuries pop up. I think the good news if I was gonna be positive is right now when things don’t matter and we’ve got time. It’s not the middle of the season or an area where he’s going to miss a significant amount of games right now.
“He did a nice job of getting himself stronger and his body in a good place to where he wanted to be in the offseason to come in and help us win. Now we’re gonna have to kinda slow things down a hair. He was in a really good place before he got hurt. Hopefully this process won’t take too long and we’ll get him back as soon as possible in games that matter.”
The Cubs have some internal options to replace Suzuki in the interim. Patrick Wisdom and Trey Mancini can both play right field and the Cubs also signed outfielder Mike Tauchman to a minor league deal prior to Spring Training. Then there are young players like Brennen Davis, Christopher Morel and Nelson Velázquez who could make the most of the opportunity. Morel and Velázquez made their MLB debuts last season (though Morel only played center and left field) while Davis missed most of the 2022 campaign with a back injury.