Cubs notebook: Roster moves, more injuries and Kris Bryant’s advice for kids
Sunday night’s game ended in auspicious fashion for the Cubs, but also with lingering concerns about the status of Willson Contreras.
The results were similar Tuesday night, as Nico Hoerner exited the Cubs’ 4-3 victory in the top of the 6th inning with a left hamstring strain. He was attempting to beat out a bunt and collapsed in a heap after running through first base.
Hoerner had 2 hits and upped his batting average to .338 prior to the injury while playing impressive defense at second base.
“He went down in some pain,” David Ross said. “It didn’t look good, that’s for sure.”
In the 10th inning Sunday, Contreras got crossed up with pitcher Craig Kimbrel and took a 98 mph fastball to the left wrist. Somehow, the veteran backstop remained in the game to close out the victory and ensure the Cubs claimed the series win.
After an off-day Monday, he was out of the lineup for Tuesday’s opener in Pittsburgh but took some swings pregame and is expected to play Wednesday. That’s good news given Contreras is one of the most important players on the Cubs roster.
“Woke up this morning feeling much better,” Ross said Tuesday afternoon. “Got looked at yesterday — X-rays were negative. Right now, it’s a contusion and hopefully swings go well but I think everybody’s encouraged at where he’s at.”
Contreras has caught more innings than any other player in the National League this season — by a wide margin. Entering play Tuesday, his 321 innings dwarfed the runner-up: Pittsburgh’s Jacob Stallings (275.2 innings).
“Willson means a lot to this team,” Ross said.
The Cubs did not receive the same level of positive news on infielder Matt Duffy, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a low back strain Tuesday. The move is retroactive to May 23, so he could return in just over a week.
Duffy has been a huge component of this offense over the last month as his high-contact skillset and professional approach has helped to transform the Cubs lineup.
In his place, the Cubs called up infielder Patrick Wisdom. The 29-year-old was slashing .160/.353/.560 in 8 games with Triple-A Iowa, crushing 3 homers and driving in 11 runs.
He had a brief stint on the big-league roster in 2020, going 0-for-2 in a couple of games.
To create room for Wisdom on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated pitcher Jason Adam for assignment.
Continuing the roller coaster injury news of this article, the Cubs have received great news on the status of reliever Rowan Wick. He’s been hampered by an intercostal strain since late last season and experienced a setback in his recovery last month.
“He’s working his way back, throwing again and is feeling really good,” Ross said.
That would be a huge boost to a Cubs bullpen that has been on fire recently with 0 earned runs allowed in 29.2 innings after 4 more shutout frames Tuesday night.
Alec Mills (back) made a rehab start Sunday with Triple-A Iowa and allowed 5 runs on 7 hits in 1.2 innings. He will appear in a game again Friday in the minor leagues.
“I think just getting back on the bump, trying to feel healthy, get out there, didn’t have his best start,” Ross said. “He’ll continue to build off that, try to work back into pitching well.”
Meanwhile, the trio of players afflicted with hamstring strains are progressing well. Jake Marisnick and Jason Heyward did agility work pregame Tuesday and have been taking some swings.
Rookie reliever Justin Steele is still on his lower body program, as well, after leaving Thursday’s game with hamstring tightness.
“They’re on a good path to get back as soon as they check all the boxes,” Ross said.
KB’s advice to young players
“Third base” is still listed as Kris Bryant’s first position on his Baseball Reference page, but he has not played an inning at the hot corner in over a month. His last appearance at third base came on April 20 as he’s been mainly an outfielder over that stretch while also spelling Anthony Rizzo at first base a bit.
He still brings four gloves with him on road trips but it’s the outfield mitt that has been seeing the most use of late.
“Ready for anything that is thrown my way,” Bryant said. “I’m really enjoying playing the outfield right now. It’s really something — you get to different cities and you hear certain things in the outfield and there’s always a bunch of kids out there and they just want a wave.
“It’s just a completely different game than third base is, which I’m really appreciative of.”
That included a rocks-paper-scissors session with a kid in St. Louis, of which Bryant lost two straight matches.
Bryant is an early MVP candidate with an impressive start to the season at the plate (.991 OPS) but he doesn’t believe there is a correlation between roaming the field defensively and offensive success. He is, however, in a good place mentally overall right now.
“I just enjoy the fact that I’m able to play all over the field and be that type of player for this team,” Bryant said. “I watched Ben Zobrist do it and he did it so well and it’s like, ‘hey I wanna be like that, too.’ I don’t want to be just a one-dimensional player.
“That’s something I would teach any kid out there right now — pride yourself in being able to play all the positions that you can. That’s what real baseball players want to see — someone who can go out there and play baseball and be thrown at different positions and different gloves and be able to look like they’ve done it before.”
Craig Kimbrel closed out Tuesday’s victory, earning his 10th save of the season in the process. That gives him 358 career saves, which ties him with Troy Percival for 11th place in baseball history.
Kimbrel gave up a leadoff double but followed that up with a flyout, strikeout and groundout to end the game.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said of the milestone. “I’m still pretty happy about getting out of that after a leadoff double. I come in here every day, ready to do my job whenever I’m asked to do it and I’ve been able to do it for a long time now and feel honored to get to where I am.”