Cubs Spring Training Notebook: Madrigal, Miley, Simmons, Givens, Leiter and Chavez
MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs have a lot of difficult decisions to make this week with regards to the roster.
But some of those decisions will be made for them on the health front.
The Cubs are dealing with a few injuries to players as the shortened spring progresses.
Here’s updates on each player:
The second baseman was originally set to lead off Friday’s game against the Diamondbacks but was scratched with what the club deemed “leg fatigue.”
He was not in Saturday’s lineup but did take grounders at the Cubs complex and is set to appear in a minor league game Sunday.
“It wasn’t anything alarming or too bad,” Madrigal said. “I was going through my normal warm-up progression and I’ve had that before. Some tightness early on and as I got warm, it would kinda go away. Yesterday, it was just lingering around.
“I started to run some bases and they saw me not 100% normal so then they immediately pulled me out. That was really it.”
Madrigal had surgery last season after tearing his right hamstring, so he — and the Cubs — are understandably cautious when it comes to anything with his legs. This fatigue was more in his glut and not his hamstring, he said.
He maintained there was no hard fall or collision that led to the fatigue and he felt “great” Saturday.
“I told them I could go, it was just one of those things where they were saying just get right for the regular season,” Madrigal said. “There’s gonna be some talks throughout the season to be smart about it. My ultimate goal is to be out there every day but I know it was a big surgery.”
The Cubs have been cautious all spring about trying to get guys ready for the regular season without pushing them too hard. The organization is taking a big picture look at the roster and don’t consider Opening Day as anything more than an arbitrary deadline.
“You don’t want to lose all those guys early on,” David Ross said. “The history makes a lot of sense and the ability for [Madrigal] to communicate with us, to see that and get a plan and making sure we’re taking care of him.”
The veteran shortstop has been slowed in camp by a shoulder issue and has only been able to DH in one game — back on March 24.
He is classifying the shoulder as soreness and tightness and felt some added pain after a more intense day of throwing earlier in camp.
With Opening Day so close, he didn’t rule out being ready for April 7 against the Brewers.
“It’s possible,” Simmons said. “But I also want to be game-ready. I don’t want to have to come and catch up. Hopefully I’ll work with the staff and they’ll give me a good plan on when a good time to start is.”
Assuming Simmons is not able to go at the start of the year, the Cubs can roll with Nico Hoerner and Jonathan Villar at shortstop. Ildemaro Vargas is also in camp on a minor-league deal and represents added depth.
Miley will certainly not be on the Opening Day roster as the team shut him down for the next week-plus with elbow inflammation.
He threw a live bullpen session last Sunday and his elbow has continued to bug him throughout camp. He got an MRI earlier in the week and it revealed some inflammation.
“Just want to get to it now rather than fighting it all year long,” Miley said. “I feel like if we get ahead of it now, it will be fine.
“MRI looked pretty good for a 35-year-old with a lot of innings. I was pretty pleased.”
Miley said this elbow issue has been something he has dealt with in the past at times and it would typically go away. But this spring, the only way it would go away is with two or three days without throwing and that’s impossible to get ready for the season on that kind of schedule.
The plan is to get some rest and let the inflammation calm down. Then he will start on a throwing program again and he hopes the timeline could move quickly from there.
“I think it’ll be a little quicker because I’m gonna be able to continue with my shoulder program, keep doing things,” Miley said. “It’s not like I’m just gonna take 10 full days off of doing nothing. If that was the case, yeah, it would probably be a full start-over.
“I’m gonna keep my body in the best shape I can and try to build up the throwing part again.”
The veteran reliever made his Cactus League debut in Saturday’s game. He signed with the Cubs after the lockout ended and joined camp on March 24.
Givens also pitched in a live bullpen session last Sunday and was originally scheduled to appear in Wednesday’s game at Sloan Park. But he was held out as a precaution.
“He had a little bit of soreness so just wanted to make sure he was all ready,” Ross said.
Givens tossed a shutout inning Saturday, walking a batter and notching 3 strikeouts.
Givens — who turns 32 in May — has 29 saves and 77 holds in his 7-year career while whiffing 10.6 batters per 9 innings.
It is unclear if he will be ready for Opening Day, but whenever Givens joins the Cubs bullpen, expect him to work in high-leverage situations at the back end.
Mark Leiter Jr.
The 31-year-old right-handed pitcher has flown under the radar this offseason after signing with the Cubs on a minor-league deal in December.
The son of Mark Leiter and the nephew of Al Leiter — both of whom had long careers as MLB pitchers — Leiter Jr. got the start for the Cubs in Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Angels.
He allowed 2 unearned runs and 3 hits in 3 innings Saturday.
Leiter was originally drafted by the Phillies in the 22nd round in 2013 and missed the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He returned to the mound last season in the Detroit Tigers minor league system and posted solid numbers — 3.77 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 11.4 K/9 — while working mostly as a starter with a handful of relief appearances mixed in.
Leiter has pitched well this spring, with a 0.93 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 9.2 innings.
He could be in the mix for the Opening Day roster as one of the arms in camp that has been able to handle a regular workload this spring. If he doesn’t make the initial roster, Leiter represents depth later in the year as either a starter or multi-inning reliever.
The Cubs selected the contract of Chavez Saturday afternoon. The veteran reliever was in camp on a minor-league deal he signed after the lockout.
That solidifies one piece of the Opening Day bullpen. Chavez, 38, has pitched well this spring (2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in 7 IP) and is capable of throwing multiple innings.
He was a big part of the Cubs’ second-half bullpen in 2019 when he posted a 1.15 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 39 innings.
Chavez spent 2019-20 with the Texas Rangers and was a part of the Braves’ World Series-winning bullpen a season ago.