Cubs Spring Training Notebook: Injury news and Suzuki’s adjustments
MESA, Ariz. — Speculation has turned into confirmation with veteran starter Wade Miley.
The Cubs claimed the southpaw off waivers in November but he has been slowed in camp after the uncertainty of the lockout. Now he’s shut down for the next week-and-a-half with elbow inflammation.
Miley threw a live bullpen Sunday against Cubs teammates but the elbow issue continued to linger. An MRI revealed inflammation and he will not throw for at least 10 days.
The team doesn’t currently have a timeline for Miley but this certainly takes him out of the Opening Day mix as it will take weeks for him to build up to a starter’s workload after this rest period.
The Cubs have taken a big picture view of their roster all spring and they will hope to add Miley into the rotation soon.
“Not too concerned right now,” David Ross said. “It wasn’t anything when he was throwing so we were slow playing it a little bit. There was a little bit of discomfort with his arms going over his head in his windup, which started it and then some of the release stuff.
“Started to get a little bit worse and just not going away so we wanted to be precautionary, get some pictures taken of it and they saw a little bit of inflammation in there. Let that thing calm down and get him back started.”
Given Miley’s slow build in camp prior to Friday’s news, the Cubs have already had plenty of time to focus on a Plan B with their pitching staff.
Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman are in line to start the first 2 games of the season.
Hendricks started Friday’s against the Diamondbacks. He allowed 4 homers but explained how he had a much different approach than regular season outings. He was more focused on establishing his fastball down and away.
“I was kind stubborn with it at times and I started to miss with a couple so I wanted to get it back,” Hendricks said. “At least I was able to have it there at the end. … If I missed with one or something, [it was like] let’s dial it in. Let’s make sure I got it.
“I just didn’t have that last year and everything works off that for me. I have to have that down-and-away fastball.”
Stroman was scheduled for a bullpen Friday and his next outing will come on a backfield at the Cubs complex as he builds up for the regular season.
Justin Steele and Drew Smyly are already in the rotation and when the fifth starter spot comes around, the Cubs could go with Alec Mills or Keegan Thompson (who started Friday’s other split-squad game against the Brewers).
The Cubs also feel confident in their bullpen to eat innings. Either Mills or Thompson could provide length as well as Daniel Norris and Scott Effross and non-roster pitchers like Jesse Chavez, Robert Gsellman, Mark Leiter Jr. and Adrian Sampson.
On the position player front, Andrelton Simmons planned to throw again Friday. He has been dealing with shoulder soreness and played catch on back-to-back days Tuesday and Wednesday before the Cubs were off Thursday.
He likely will not be a factor on the roster to begin the regular season.
“It’s not looking good,” Ross admitted. “He’s definitely behind. He’s done a good job of continuing to take some at-bats, working on his swing. When that shoulder feels a little bit better, he should be able to hit the ground running. Been able to do a lot in the weight room, taking some ground balls but I think we may slow him down a little bit. We’ll see how it goes today.
“He was encouraged when I talked to him this morning. Feels like he’s trending in the right direction but it’s getting pretty close and I want to make sure. We got a long season ahead of us and he’s a real important piece for us that we gotta make sure he gets out of camp healthy.”
The Cubs are prepared to roll with Nico Hoerner and Jonathan Villar at shortstop at the start of the regular season. Both players can also play second base to spell Nick Madrigal, who was initially supposed to start Friday’s game against the Diamondbacks but was experiencing some leg fatigue and was held out of the lineup as a precaution.
Ildemaro Vargas represents another middle infield option but he is in camp as a non-roster invitee and the Cubs already will have to make room on the 40-man roster for at least one — and potentially several — pitchers.
Seiya Suzuki made an in-game adjustment in Wednesday’s game, going from a leg kick to a toe-tap to get his timing down. It led to a home run — his first hit in a Cubs uniform.
But there was also another factor that may have helped Suzuki.
“We got his bats in that he felt comfortable with and went deep with as soon as he used it,” Ross said. “He’s getting more comfortable every single day.”
The Cubs manager also talked with his friends and colleagues around the game about the type of adjustments Shohei Ohtani made in Anaheim as he adjusted to MLB pitching.
There are a slew of former Cubs coaches on the Angels’ staff, including manager Joe Maddon, assistant hitting coach John Mallee and quality assurance coach Tim Buss.
“Ohtani had to do the same thing when he first got over,” Ross said. “He struggled in spring and then went to a little bit of a modified leg kick and he’s kinda turned into a pretty good player, I would say.”
Ohtani won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, hitting .285 with a .925 OPS and 22 homers in 104 games. He took home the AL MVP last year as a force on the mound as well as at the plate (46 homers, .965 OPS).
Suzuki is only 11 plate appearances into his MLB career — and all in exhibition games. The homer Wednesday was encouraging but the Cubs never had any worry the 27-year-old would make the necessary adjustments.
“You’re constantly working on your craft and he loves hitting and tinkering with his timing and just being able to compete,” Ross said. “It’s a really fast adjustment he made here already, seeing, ‘OK I’m a little bit late, let me simplify some things in my lower half and make sure I use my hands, which are super quick and powerful.
“You see him have really good at-bats and then obviously hit the home run. He’s a ballplayer. He’s gonna adjust and continue to do that for a really long time.”
Split squad notes
—Thompson struck out 5 in 3 innings against the Brewers Friday:
—David Robertson made his Cactus League debut with a perfect 8th inning against the Diamondbacks. He induced a weak groundball and then struck out the next 2 batters with off-speed pitches in the dirt.
—Prospect Alexander Canario hit a towering blast against the Brewers:
Alexander Canario RAKES. pic.twitter.com/KMk9Kx6M4G— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 1, 2022
—Phenom James Triantos continued his hot spring. The prospect singled in his first at-bat of the game as the Cubs’ DH against the Diamondbacks, making him 3-for-3 to start his big-league spring career.
Cubs prospect James Triantos collected an infield hit against the Diamondbacks in his first AB Friday off Madison Bumgarner.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) April 1, 2022
That gave him a hit in each of his first 3 MLB at-bats this spring.
Triantos just turned 19 in January. pic.twitter.com/Fw5l0yQCI3