Although there are certainly teams dealing with worse injury issues than the Cubs (particularly given that the Cubs weren’t expected to be any good anyway), and although some of the Cubs’ injury issues were to be expected, it’s hard to argue that things don’t look more dim now than they did six weeks ago. Even from a “flip first” perspective, the injuries to Matt Garza, Scott Baker and Ian Stewart are all a mighty boot in the groin. How are things looking for their respective recoveries? And what about Brett Jackson, who’s been out for over a week with totally-minor, not-at-all-a-concern shoulder inflammation?
- There is no setback to report with respect to Garza, so that’s good, I suppose. But he’s not scheduled for a bullpen session until the first week of April, which, unless it’s April 1, is going to be a handful of days later than the 7 to 10 day estimate we were told it would take to get him back on the mound just a few days ago. I know there’s a lot of guess work involved in the recovery of a guy with a lat injury – who is also returning from a serious, long-term elbow injury – but it seems like, at every turn, the Garza injury updates are just a touch off from what we were told the last time (which was a touch off from what we were told the last time (which was a touch off from what we were told the last time)). You would be crazy to expect Garza back any time before mid-May at this point.
- I’m sure it’s just as frustrating for Garza – moreso, actually – but I can’t stop thinking about the flurry of updates on his progress … he’ll be full go once Spring Training starts … he’ll be back in a week … he’ll be ready by Opening Day … he’ll probably start later that first week of the season, but will avoid the DL … he’ll start the season on the DL, but should be back when those 15 days are up … he’ll probably be back late April … he’ll probably be back early May …
- The sliver of good news on Baker is that his current elbow strain is more related to the muscle than it is related to the ligament that was replaced during his Tommy John surgery. That’s not to say the injury is unconnected to his rehab, obviously, but at least there isn’t an immediate concern that his surgery failed or will require an additional procedure. Right now, the best case scenario – as far as I can see it – has Baker resuming throwing at the end of April, continuing his rehab and strengthening process over the ensuing six weeks, and returning to big league game action in mid-June. Is that enough time for him to establish trade value by late July if he’s dominant? Let’s just say I’m not really thinking in those terms with him. Hopefully he returns healthy and effective as soon as possible, and maybe a team-friendly extension starts to look like a good idea. That’s where my head’s at with him.
- Ian Stewart’s injury progress – or lack thereof – has been lost in the pitching shuffle, but he keeps getting pushed back, too. It was already known that he was going to have to start the season on the DL after a “mild” quad strain has kept him out of action for the entirety of the Cactus League schedule, but now we learn that he won’t even start a rehab assignment until mid-April at the earliest. Since he’ll have had no game action in Spring Training, he’s going to need a couple weeks of that before returning, which means early May is the best case scenario at this point. And we still don’t know how his surgically repaired wrist is going to hold up.
- And finally, the best news of the bunch goes to Brett Jackson and his shoulder, which has kept him out of action for other a week. It hasn’t prevented him from hitting, but the soreness is in his throwing shoulder, so the Cubs have thought it best to rest him (since he’s headed to Iowa to start the season anyway). Jackson is expected to resume games this week, but they might be of the minor league variety – which is to say Jackson could be “cut” at some point soon.
- For his part, Dale Sveum sounds the most bummed about the Garza injury, because it disrupted the rotation, which was shaping up to be the one bright spot on the team.