Cubs get good news on the injury front as reinforcements are on the way
There is plenty to be optimistic about regarding the Cubs right now.
The weather was simply gorgeous for the Cubs’ homestand, the team pulled off back-to-back thrilling wins and Ian Happ has been extended through the 2026 season.
On top of all that, the Cubs received some good news on the injury front this week and the team is inching closer to full strength.
A quartet of impactful players — Seiya Suzuki, Brandon Hughes, Kyle Hendricks and Codi Heuer — are all progressing from their respective injuries and the first two could join the team on the upcoming West Coast trip.
Suzuki began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa last weekend, playing in games on Saturday and Sunday. After a team off-day on Monday, he was in the lineup for back-to-back days and hit a home run Wednesday.
The Cubs will evaluate him from there but they are expecting to get their starting right fielder back sometime soon, possibly even as early as this weekend. The Cubs play the Dodgers in Los Angeles Friday through Sunday and then head to Oakland for a 3-game series.
“Both offensively and defensively, we’re excited to get him back,” Jed Hoyer said. “I’m glad he’s getting toward the end of this rehab and hopefully we have him back soon.”
When Suzuki does return, the Cubs will find ways to ease him in slowly. The team has been rotating Miles Mastrobuoni, Patrick Wisdom and Trey Mancini in right field to begin the season and just recalled Nelson Velázquez to add a true outfielder on the roster.
Adding to the outfield puzzle, Cody Bellinger’s girlfriend is due with the couple’s second child any day, so he will likely be on paternity leave for a handful of games in the near future.
Suzuki never got to appear in a Spring Training game as he injured his oblique the day of the Cactus League opener. To help get him up to speed quickly, the Cubs had him play defense in minor league games even before he took swings.
“We’ll take that game-to-game and just see how he feels,” Ross said.
As for Hughes, he has made a pair of rehab appearances for Triple-A Iowa while recovering from a knee injury. He tossed a scoreless inning Saturday and allowed 3 runs in 0.2 innings Tuesday night.
With his timeline, the Cubs aren’t as focused on his workload but rather want to ensure Hughes is effective when he returns.
“We have real information on Hughesy on what we’re trying to get him back to,” Ross said late last week. “Mechanically with the knee and the data will support that when he’s right. We’re getting close to that.”
Hendricks (shoulder) threw 2 innings in a live BP Wednesday with the plan to throw 35 pitches.
If he comes out of this outing OK, the Cubs will determine his status to potentially begin a rehab assignment soon.
“We’ll reevaluate it, but he’s not far off,” Hoyer said. “He’s getting close to that.”
Hendricks missed the entire second half of last season with the shoulder injury but has reported feeling great as he builds back up. When he returns, he could be a major boost to the Cubs rotation.
Heuer threw 1 inning of live BP Tuesday and felt good Wednesday. He had Tommy John surgery last March and subsequently missed all of 2022.
The 26-year-old reliever came to the Cubs in the Craig Kimbrel trade, along with Nick Madrigal, in July 2021 and pitched well. He went 3-3 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2 saves and 4 holds in 25 appearances.
He is on the 60-day day IL, so he cannot return to the Cubs bullpen until late May.
“We’re not really in a hurry, so to speak, with him,” Hoyer said. “Because we’ll send him on a rehab and the hope is without a setback he’s basically ready pretty close to when the 60-day is up.
“Knowing that that he wasn’t gonna come back before 14 months kinda made that a little easier. But he’s been doing great.”