Jeimer Candelario could rejoin Cubs soon and Adbert Alzolay might not be far behind
The Cubs could be getting a boost in the near future.
As the playoff race heats up and the schedule dwindles to the final week, the Cubs are hoping they’ll have Jeimer Candelario back in the lineup soon and closer Adbert Alzolay might not be far behind.
Candelario has been on the IL since Sept. 12 with a low back strain but he resumed baseball activities Friday for the first time.
“See how he reacts tomorrow,” David Ross said Friday morning. “I think the best case scenario is probably Sunday. If not, Tuesday is the hope.”
The Cubs are off on Monday so Candelario will likely either return for the series finale with the Rockies at Wrigley Field on Sunday or the opener against the Braves in Atlanta Tuesday night.
When the Cubs first placed Candelario on the IL, they hoped it would be a short stay. But the back injury has proven to be tricky.
“It’s just been a little bit of a slower process than we thought,” Ross said. “I’m glad he’s gotten the downtime so hopefully he can come back and be 100%. But it’s gonna take a minute to just ramp him back up.”
Candelario was the team’s big acquisition at the trade deadline and has hit .237/.324/.449 (.773 OPS) in 36 games since coming back to Chicago. He came up through the Cubs system and appeared in 16 games for the Cubs in 2016-17 before being traded to the Tigers.
Candelario would be a big addition to the Cubs lineup, providing versatility as a switch-hitter who can play both corner infield positions and also serve as the DH if needed. When the Cubs first acquired him, they loved how he helped lengthen the lineup, often slotting in just after the heart of the order.
In his absence, Nick Madrigal stepped up as the Cubs’ everyday third baseman. But Madrigal found himself on the IL as well with a hamstring injury and the Cubs have been left short-handed.
Miles Mastrobuoni has been seeing a lot of the playing time at third base this week, starting against right-handed pitchers and collecting 6 hits in a 3-game span from Wednesday through Friday. Christopher Morel and Patrick Wisdom have also made starts at third base since Madrigal went on the IL.
Once Candelario returns, the Cubs can slot Mastrobuoni and Wisdom back in as role players while utilizing Morel in his standard DH spot.
Meanwhile, the bullpen could be one step closer to full strength in a week.
Alzolay (forearm) threw a “touch-and-feel” bullpen Friday morning, which essentially means he threw a light bullpen. The hope is he could return before the end of the regular season, toward the tail end of the Cubs’ upcoming road trip in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
He is first eligible to come off the IL on Monday.
The Cubs bullpen has been sorely missing Alzolay and could use another high-leverage option for the final few games of the regular season and — if they make it — the playoffs.
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