Next steps for Cubs as they sort out injury puzzle
The Cubs are in a tricky spot with no easy resolution.
Anthony Rizzo was still out of the lineup for Friday’s series-opening win over the Cincinnati Reds and has not played since Tuesday night as he deals with low back tightness. He initially tweaked his back 10 days ago (May 18) against the Nationals.
Given Rizzo’s lengthy history of low back issues, it would seem to be an easy option to simply place him on the 10-day injured list. That’s not the Cubs’ path — at least right now.
“We’ll take it day-to-day with him and just listen to his body,” David Ross said Friday morning. “He’s an important piece and I don’t want to rush him back and have something like [Matt Duffy’s] instance come back and miss a little bit more time.”
The other issue at play here is the Cubs’ roster crunch and the sheer volume of players currently on the IL, which stands at 10 now after Nico Hoerner’s addition Wednesday.
There are also no good answers in the minor leagues to come up and help out on the position player front. The Cubs had to clear room on the 40-man roster for Patrick Wisdom and Rafael Ortega already this week, designating pitchers Jason Adam and Shelby Miller for assignment as a result.
Between the 26-man roster and the 10 players on the IL, that accounts for 33 of the 40-man spots (the three players on the 60-day IL — Rowan Wick, Jonathan Holder, Austin Romine — don’t count toward the 40-man roster tally).
Of the seven remaining players, five are pitchers and the two position players (Miguel Amaya, Christopher Morel) are prospects playing in Double-A and not yet ready for the majors.
In order for the Cubs to add a position player like Sergio Alcantara or Dee Strange-Gordon on to the big-league roster, they would have to part with one of the other players on the 40-man group.
So for now, they’re content to let it ride with Rizzo on the shelf day-to-day and hope he’s able to return to the lineup later this weekend.
“If it’s a no-brainer and there’s other options that can fill holes, then you maybe err on the side of that a little bit more and being overly cautious and using the full 10 days,” Ross said. “When you get to being super thin and 40-man instances, I think a lot of it has to do with the severity of the injury or what’s bothering guys.
“I try to trust in the players to give me real feedback. … [Rizzo] continues to tell me he’ll be available and try to work and be ready to help if he can. From my seat, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to push.”
The Cubs hope to have some reinforcements coming soon, as outfielders Jake Marisnick and Jason Heyward are progressing from their hamstring strains. Both players did some running on the field before Friday’s game and continue to go through testing and their lower-body routines.
Given how many injuries the Cubs are dealing with right now, the team might find a way to get the veterans back in the fold without a rehab assignment.
“We’d like to get them some at-bats if we can, but we’re also very short-handed up and down the roster,” Ross said. “We’re gonna continue to analyze that as we get closer, see what they need.”
Hoerner is the most recent addition to the hamstring strain club after going down in a heap Tuesday night in Pittsburgh while trying to leg out an infield hit.
Right now, the Cubs are focused on letting Hoerner rest and eradicating the inflammation from the left hamstring. There is currently no timetable, but the expectation is the Cubs will be without their young second baseman for at least the next two or three weeks.
That’s still good news given how bad the injury first looked.
“I’m really optimistic about where I’m at,” Hoerner said. “Looking back on the play itself and having seen the video, part of what you guys saw from me was just immediate frustration of knowing that I was missing time. It wasn’t entirely pain I was reacting to.
“I enjoy playing a lot and knew that this was gonna leave me out for a little bit. I think that’s where you kinda saw some of the emotion from that.”
The Cubs aren’t alone, as injuries are up around the league:
Nobody seems to have any answers right now as to why that is the case but the Cubs are pleased with their depth and hope they can stay ahead of the roster puzzle.