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News and Notes: Cubs piecing things together after slew of injuries

3 years agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs are trying to exploit off days to the best of their abilities.

With 3 off days scheduled over the next 9 days, the Cubs used the window to place three players, Jake Arrieta (right thumb abrasion), Dan Winkler (right triceps tendinitis) and Nico Hoerner (left forearm strain) on the 10-day injured list ahead of their 7-1 Game 1 win over the Dodgers. Hoerner suffered his injury in Sunday’s loss to the Reds when he collided with Ian Happ in the outfield.

“Nico’s got kind of a forearm sprain,” David Ross said. “I think time will tell on all of that.”

Winkler and Arrieta were placed on the injured list retroactive to May 3.

“I think we’re optimistic about everyone, to be honest with you. I don’t think they’re very serious,” Ross said. “I think all of them are fairly good news. With the off days coming up for us, it gives a chance to maximize the rest time without missing too many games.”

Happ has avoided the injured list so far and will remain under observation. He passed through concussion protocol but his ribs are taking longer to heal after the collision with Hoerner. 

“He ran through a ton of tests yesterday to make sure he was fine and he’s in a good place, he’s just super sore,” Ross said. “He’s day-to-day.”

To fill in for all the injuries, the Cubs recalled left-handed pitcher Kyle Ryan and right-handed pitcher Keegan Thompson and selected the contract of infielder Ildemaro Vargas from Triple-A Iowa.

In Arrieta’s case, he suffered the abrasion prior to his start on Saturday against the Reds. He threw a bullpen session Monday, and the cut was affecting him.

“I think we all were optimistic, even going into that game, kinda hoping for the best with the thumb,” Ross said. “It’s just affecting one of his main pitches and throwing the bullpen yesterday it’s not something that we feel comfortable pushing on.

“Again, with that and the off days coming up, just him missing a start, makes a lot of sense to get him healthy so it’s not something that either continues to linger or worsens as he continues to pitch.”

Winkler pitched in Sunday’s loss and was still performing well, with his fastball peaking at 95 miles-per-hour, even though he was pushing through the right triceps tendinitis. The Cubs were worried about using him in back-to-back appearances and are using the time to allow him to fully recover.

“The ball’s coming out well,” Ross said. “I think it’s just the cranking it back up on short rest has been a problem. He’s been dealing with it for a little while.”

Hendricks throws complete game

Just a month into the season, Ross isn’t concerned with setting hard and fast goals for the team.

“I think it’s more areas of where we feel like we need to improve,” Ross said.

Among those is getting his starters back to the level they know they can be. That includes Kyle Hendricks, who entered Tuesday’s Game 1 start with a 1-3 record and a 7.54 ERA in 22.2 innings.

“We’re not getting some of the starts that we expect out of guys and we’re trying to identify how to be better in that area,” Ross said. “I think when we can identify those, then we can go out and compete the way that we expect to.”

It’s one start, but there might be some optimism that those areas of improvement were found against the Dodgers. Hendricks threw his 6th career complete game, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and 1 walk and striking out 6. 

I did a much better job intent-wise going pitch-to-pitch, Willy had me locked in on that,” Hendricks said. “Just overall made a lot more good pitches. Still a long way to go, need consistency, but step in the right direction.”

It was the best start of the season for Hendricks, and it gave the Cubs a springboard to go out and win their opener against the defending World Series champions. The Cubs offense did their part, too, scoring 4 runs in the 1st inning off Clayton Kershaw. 

“It’s always nice to get the lead in any game, but in 7 for sure,” Ross said. “It’s also nice to have your guy out there get locked in in Kyle, throwing strikes, putting up some zeroes, the offense did well. I think that that start to that game was extremely important.”

Doubleheader scheduling

Ross understands the value and necessity of rest and recovery, especially in a 162-game season.

He understood why the Cubs and Dodgers played a doubleheader on Tuesday rather than make up Monday’s postponed game on Thursday when both teams are off.

“Those off days are very precious for us,” Ross said. “You try to do all you can to maximize those off days.”

The teams played a split doubleheader instead of a straight doubleheader, with Game 1 starting at 1:20 p.m. and the nightcap at 6:40 p.m. That allows the teams to recuperate and not feel rushed going into the second game.

“I remember last year we had a couple back-to-backs with St. Louis that felt super rushed, and it was a quick turnaround,” Ross said. “It gives us a chance to catch our breath and get ready for another game against a good team.”

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