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Cubs keeping an open mind as Marcus Stroman works his way back

9 months agoTony Andracki

When Marcus Stroman first hit the IL on Aug. 1, the Cubs hoped he would return when first eligible on Aug. 16 and only wind up missing 1 start.

Then when that mid-August day started to roll around, the hip injury was fine but a new, more serious issue popped up with his fractured rib cartilage.

Stroman had to be shut down for multiple weeks to let the pain and inflammation calm down, putting his season very much in doubt.

Now there’s a growing sense of optimism that Stroman may, in fact, be able to return to the mound for the Cubs at some point this year.

The veteran threw a bullpen Monday at the Cubs complex in Arizona and reported feeling fine afterwards.

“I haven’t asked if he’s pain-free but I know he’s excited about the way the bullpens have gone,” David Ross said. “That would assume that he’s able to continue to build up and he’s looking forward to getting back to pitching in games. That would tell me that he’s able to get after it.”

The Cubs will evaluate next steps with Stroman but the plan is for him to throw another bullpen in the coming days. He will have to start facing hitters after that — either with live BP sessions or on a minor league rehab assignment.

There is still no timeline on when he can return to the big leagues. The big focus right now is getting him built back up after more than a month off.

“Things happen and turnover can move fast,” Ross said. “Trying to get [reliever Michael] Fulmer back. Got some guys in the minor leagues trying to get back. Got some guys in the minor leagues pitching well. Trying to get Stro back.

“We’ll see how many guys we can get healthy and then figure it out from there.”

If Stroman is able to build up and make it back, what kind of pitcher will the Cubs be getting?

In his first 16 starts of the season, Stroman had a 2.28 ERA and was in the conversation to start the All-Star Game for the National League squad.

But he struggled in his next 7 starts before the IL stint with a 9.00 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in 30 innings.

Right now, the Cubs rotation is in a groove. Javier Assad has taken over for Stroman on the starting staff and pitched well (1.95 ERA in 37 innings) while rookie Jordan Wicks has been impressive in his first 2 career starts.

Justin Steele looks like a bonafide Cy Young contender, Kyle Hendricks has been as consistent as ever and Jameson Taillon has had his moments this year, too.

The regular season ends in less than 4 weeks and Stroman has a long way still to go in his recovery.

So would the Cubs be open to bringing Stroman back as a reliever or possibly as a starter in shorter bursts (2-3 innings)? Anything is on the table right now, but it’s not like a decision is imminent.

“I don’t know if it makes sense to take a guy from throwing bullpens or live BPs and throwing him into a pennant race from where he’s at,” Ross said. “But that’s where I stand right now with a healthy rotation that’s pitching really good and everybody is doing well. Hopefully that continues all the way to the end of the season and that’s a good problem to have.

“I think a healthy version of him is a good thing for us. However we use that, however he feels about that, I haven’t had conversations with Marcus. … We haven’t made any decisions today. I think we’ll get him healthy. We’ll stretch him out as far as we can, work him back to be a starter and if we get to a point where that benefits us, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll look at another role.”

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