Making sense of the Cubs’ latest roster maneuverings
MILWAUKEE — As the Cubs try to chase down the Brewers in the National League Central, the team made a collection of roster moves Tuesday evening:
—Trevor Megill was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
—Adam Morgan was selected from Triple-A to take Megill’s spot in the bullpen.
—Matt Duffy was moved to the 60-day IL to create room for Morgan on the 40-man roster.
—Ryan Tepera was added to the 10-day IL with a left calf strain.
—Tommy Nance was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to take Tepera’s spot in the Cubs bullpen.
—Kris Bryant joined his business partner (Anthony Rizzo) on the shelf for Tuesday’s game with a right side issue.
Let’s tackle each move individually:
Bryant initially hurt his right side on a dive in Los Angeles over the weekend and felt it again while making a diving play at first base during Monday night’s loss in Milwaukee.
“Woke up this morning pretty sore so just wait and react,” David Ross said.
Bryant was receiving treatment in the training room pregame and the Cubs hope to have him available to pinch-hit late in Tuesday’s game or for Wednesday’s series finale with the Brewers.
Meanwhile, Rizzo continues to progress from his left low back issue. He was not in the lineup again Tuesday but feels optimistic overall about his status as the week moves along.
“He was surprised — woke up this morning and felt much better,” Ross said of Rizzo. “His words [were] not near as bad as it was last time he had to sit out. I think that’s a good sign.
“Just trying to make sure that he’s doing all the right things so it gets out of there and not trying to play through something. … It’s something we’re trying to be cautious with.”
Rizzo missed about a week of action at the end of May with a low back issue but it bodes well for the team that he’s characterizing the current strain as an improvement over the previous tightness.
The Cubs are chasing the Brewers in the standings but this weekend in Cincinnati is also an important series and the team would love to have Bryant and Rizzo fully healthy against the Reds — the team directly behind the Cubs in the division. They also have an off-day Thursday, which adds another respite for the star players.
The veteran reliever was saddled with the loss Monday after allowing 4 runs in the 8th inning against the Brewers.
After forming a dynamic trio with Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel at the back end of the Cubs bullpen to begin the year, Tepera has run into a bit of a wall lately with 6 runs allowed over his last 4 outings (spanning 3 innings).
Tepera’s calf was sore prior to Monday’s outing and the Cubs are going to use the 10 days on the IL to ensure he’s fully healthy and give him a breather.
“With the heavy workload and how it’s been, I think it just made a lot of sense to give him the rest, make sure everything’s alright and not push through it,” Ross said. “The stuff was coming out good, just looks like he’s working really hard right now. I don’t know if that’s fatigue or just working through injuries. So I think it made a lot of sense on a lot of levels to IL him, give him a little bit of a breath and get him back hopefully in a short time.”
The Cubs initially hoped to give Nance a bit of a rest right now as well but with Tepera out, they recalled the 30-year-old rookie a day after optioning him to the minors.
The 60-day IL indication sounds scary but Duffy’s placement on the list doesn’t indicate he suffered a major setback or anything like that. He is still working to recover from a pesky low back strain and the Cubs weren’t counting on him to return until after the All-Star Break anyways.
The move to the 60-day IL affords Duffy another week or so beyond the midseason break to rehab and it also freed up a roster spot for the Cubs at a time when the bullpen is in need of another arm.
“With his injury, a couple more days aren’t gonna hurt and for him to be able to map it out where he’s definitely got his legs underneath him and he’ll be able to be on his feet on a rehab start,” Ross said. “Hopefully everything plays out well and he’ll be ready to really contribute when he comes back.”
Duffy was a game-changer for the Cubs lineup when he started receiving regular playing time in late-April as his high-contact approach helped diversify the batting order. His potential return next month figures to be a similar boon for this offense.
The Cubs signed Morgan to a minor-league deal over the winter. The 31-year-old left-hander has 199 big-league appearances under his belt but he had elbow surgery late last season and has been working his way back ever since.
He has found a lot of success with Triple-A Iowa this season, sporting a 2.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 16.1 innings.
Morgan has been especially effective this month with 8 shutout appearances.
Ross has been impressed with the reports he’s read on Morgan from Iowa manager Marty Pevey and pitching coach Ron Villone.
“Getting out of a lot of traffic, a lot of weak contact,” Ross said. “Been good vs. right and left, which would be significant with his former big-league numbers, coming back off injury. Ball’s coming off good.
“Poised — a lot of veteran attributes that Pevey and RV were talking about in the reports. All good signs. He’s got a wipeout slider, velocity’s back, he’s got a changeup that’s good to right-handers. He’s a guy that’s been around a little bit that we could put into the mix and be pretty confident of how he’s gonna handle the moment.”
Megill was added to the Cubs bullpen ahead of Monday night’s game and struggled in that pivotal 8th inning, allowing 6 runs.