Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum gave a number of injury updates yesterday, and they were all positive. That’s new.
The biggest turnaround came with respect to Ian Stewart and his ailing quad. Literally one day after saying that Stewart was unlikely to return until the weekend at the earliest, and that it seemed like his recovery was getting pushed back every day, Sveum said Stewart would make his Cactus League return on Thursday (off the bench). And Sveum no longer sounds like a guy who doubts that Stewart will be with the club on April 1. This comes after more than a week of I-don’t-know-if-he’ll-have-enough-time-to-make-this-team type rhetoric.
“I think there’s plenty of time now,” Sveum told the media. “We were a little bit worried that it would be next week but everything’s gotten a little bit quicker.”
Well, all right, then. Given the abrupt about-face with respect to not only Stewart’s return date, but also the “plenty of time” thing, it’s fair to wonder if Sveum got a note from the front office. For his part, Stewart said on Sunday that he thought he could return earlier than Sveum was saying, so maybe the Cubs just decided to defer to Stewart’s sense of his own body. Either way, he’ll now have two weeks of game action to go before camp ends.
(If you’re inclined toward cynicism, you’d note that Friday is the deadline for the Cubs to cut Stewart if they want to save 5/6th of his contract – but, teams are not permitted to cut non-guaranteed players of Stewart’s ilk for injury reasons (it has to be for poor performance). So, unless he returned to game action before Friday, they couldn’t even argue that they were releasing him for baseball reasons. No, I don’t think this actually has anything to do with his return this week. There’s a second deadline by which the Cubs could cut Stewart and save 3/4 of his contract, which comes at the end of Spring Training. That’s the far more relevant deadline … and even that one, I don’t think the Cubs will seriously consider it.)
Also on the injury update front:
- Starlin Castro, who’s been over his hamstring issue for days now, will start on Wednesday. He was, essentially, just getting extra rest.
- Matt Garza, who had been shut down for the second time after he suffered a lat strain during his first BP session of the Spring nearly a month ago, played catch yesterday from 45 feet. It was a “take it easy” kind of session, and he’ll throw again Wednesday, if he doesn’t feel any issues. If he can keep going from here, it’s possible he’ll miss just the first two weeks of the season, rather than the first month.
- Josh Vitters, who is recovering from an identical quad strain as Stewart (must’ve been something they ate), is also expected to return to game action later this week. With an understanding that he’s going to start the year at AAA, and the Cubs needing to get more at bats for the guys trying to/expected to make the team, I don’t think Vitters will get too many Cactus League appearances under his belt before he’s sent to minor league camp. It was just a badly timed injury for him.
- Brent Lillibridge has missed a hair over a week with a groin strain, but he’s expected to play off the bench Wednesday. He had the inside track on a bench job before he went down, so he’ll have to remind the Cubs of what he can do in these last couple weeks of Spring. He’s not on the 40-man roster, so the Cubs will have to do some shuffling if they want to keep him.