Suzuki, Frazier, Heyward and how Cubs outfield picture is developing
With Clint Frazier back and Jason Heyward nearing a return, the Cubs outfield picture is getting a bit crowded. And one of the solutions to clear up spots is not exactly an ideal situation for the team.
Seiya Suzuki injured his left ring finger in Cincinnati Thursday and was out of the lineup Saturday. He is “day-to-day” and he did some light baseball activities prior to Saturday’s Crosstown game.
“I know he felt better today than he did yesterday,” David Ross said of Suzuki.
The Cubs are hoping Suzuki can avoid the IL but they need to wait and see how he recovers. They are about to kick off a 9-game homestand against division rivals Milwaukee and St. Louis and would certainly want Suzuki on the field if he’s healthy enough to play.
Meanwhile, Heyward and Frazier were back with the team at Guaranteed Rate Field Saturday to watch the Cubs beat the White Sox 5-1. Frazier was activated ahead of the game after missing more than five weeks due to an appendectomy in April.
The 27-year-old outfielder is in his first year with the Cubs and was a popular pick for a potential breakout player after a strong Spring Training. He posted a .488 OPS in 10 games before the injury but he feels like he made the most of his time off and the 8-game rehab stint with Triple-A Iowa.
“I felt good,” Frazier said. “I hit a couple balls that I couldn’t quite get over that wall. I had an interesting assignment down there. I hit a home run that the umpire called fair, I got all the way back in the dugout and he called it foul. And then I grounded out to shortstop, so that was interesting.
“I had some time to think about what I wanted to work on when I was coming back and I got to look at some data behind the scenes and found some stuff that’s hard to see just looking at the naked eye. I feel pretty good about it going forward.”
When he was healthy, the Cubs utilized Frazier more as a platoon player against left-handed pitchers with 1 start in left field and a few at DH.
The Cubs took a flier on him over the winter as an intriguing player who has yet to put it all together in the big leagues.
“It was a tough early go for him,” Jed Hoyer said. “He looked great all spring. I loved the quality of his at-bats when he was going right. Obviously with the appendicitis, trying to get healthy. Just getting a lot of guys healthy.
“He’s got a nice way about him too. He’s good with the guys and I think everyone’s excited to see what he can do.”
Heyward is still on the IL without a designation but Saturday marked his first day back with the team since May 15 in Arizona. There is no timetable on when he will return to the field as he works his way back into game shape.
“He’ll hit, run, throw, run the bases, do some things, get back into baseball activity,” Ross said. “Make sure he’s feeling great, has his energy, his stamina, makes sure he’s OK and then when he’s good, we’ll figure out those decisions then.”
Ian Happ has been a steadying presence for the Cubs this season — both offensively and defensively — and has locked down left field on a daily basis.
Rookie Christopher Morel can play all over the diamond but has started 5 games in center field, including Thursday and Saturday.
Rafael Ortega is also in the outfield mix and he has spent the most time in center since Heyward landed on the IL. Ortega started in right field Saturday and reached base 3 times in the win (2 walks and a single).
Then there’s Michael Hermosillo, who was been out since early May with a quad strain. The Cubs moved Hermosillo from the IL without designation back to the 10-day IL Saturday.
The Cubs don’t have room for 7 outfielders on their roster, even with the DH and accounting for the fact Morel can play the infield.
It will be interesting to see how the playing time is divided over the next few weeks but for now, the Cubs are taking things a day at a time until they know more about Suzuki’s status or when Heyward and Hermosillo might return to the field.