Convalescence Watch: Baker, Fujikawa, Stewart, Garza, Almora, Vizcaino, Lake, Vitters

nomar injured cubsSo many updates …

  • Scott Baker: The forgotten starter has finally started throwing again after suffering a March setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. It was just light throwing from 45 feet, but it’s a start. There’s no time table for his return, but the internetz were made for speculating: let’s give it a month before he’s back on the mound, and then three weeks of mound sessions before he faces batters. That puts him on a rehab assignment in late June, with the possibility of being big-league-ready at some point in July. That’s a very rough guess, and assumes no further setbacks.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa: The Cubs’ reliever, recovering from a forearm strain, threw off of the mound for the first time since hitting the DL, and although he was not “real crisp” according to Dale Sveum (per, it was still a successful 32 pitches. He’ll have another bullpen session this week before heading to AAA Iowa for a rehab stint on Sunday.
  • Ian Stewart: At this point, it seems like the performances of Luis Valbuena, Cody Ransom and Stewart, himself, have as much to do with him remaining at Iowa as does anything to do with his quad or wrist. In 47 plate appearances, he’s hitting just .111/.298/.139. It’s still his Spring Training, though, so you’ll cut him a little slack. Still, the clock is ticking on his rehab assignment – according to my count, he’s got just four days left before he reaches the 20-day maximum for a positional player’s rehab stint.
  • Matt Garza: As of today, Garza is still scheduled to start tomorrow for AA Tennessee, in his first rehab start. If that goes well, he’ll have at least two – and probably three – more rehab starts before rejoining the Cubs.
  • Arodys Vizcaino and Junior Lake: I’ve actually got nothing on either youngster, but I like to mention them here to remind folks that we’re still waiting on them to return to minor league action. Vizcaino (Tommy John surgery) has been throwing (at last check, at least, which was quite some time ago), but he has not been appearing in extended Spring Training games (per a perusal of TCR’s ExST games). Lake (broken rib) was expected to miss just four to six weeks when he suffered the injury back in the second week of March. It’s been about seven weeks now, and he still isn’t playing in extended Spring Training games. Not sure if there’s been an aggravation of the injury or a mere slow recovery. There probably isn’t a huge rush, given that the Cubs want to give the vast majority of the third base starts at Iowa to Stewart right now. But that fact wouldn’t be keeping Lake out of action altogether. (UPDATE: Per BN’er Melanie in the comments, Vizcaino has been training with AA Tennessee since the Smokies’ season began. Excellent. We have something.)
  • Josh Vitters: He’s been playing in extended Spring Training games, and reportedly could come off DL as soon as today. He’s over his back and quad issues, and is just about ready to get his season underway. Where he’ll be playing for Iowa, however, remains an interesting question.
  • Albert Almora: The Cubs’ big-time center field prospect (hamate bone removal) finally returned to the field yesterday in an extended Spring Training game. The Cubs batted him every inning, so it’s clear that he’s getting an accelerated preparation stretch. With a couple weeks in Arizona, he could be ready to head to Kane County by mid-May, if not sooner.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

52 responses to “Convalescence Watch: Baker, Fujikawa, Stewart, Garza, Almora, Vizcaino, Lake, Vitters”

  1. Spriggs

    Vitters had a couple of nice ext st games last week that I witnessed. Good to hear Almora finally played. He’d been hitting and playing the field in practices and getting a lot of work in – last week. Both of these guys look healthy!

    PS… Angel Guzman is a pitching instructor with the team now. Always liked him.

    1. @murdiddlyurdler

      i’m glad to see they kept guzman in the organization. he could never catch a break health-wise. an excellent cautionary tale to keep in mind with these prospects everyone loves to fawn over.

  2. beerhelps

    Hoping Almora is back by then, going to see Kane County here in Peoria March 24th.

    1. Noah

      After you do so, can you share your DeLorean with me?

      1. Rich H

        He meant May 24th. I have a road trip up to see them then as well.

  3. MightyBear

    Thanks Brett. Good to see things are progressing. Baker should be back in time for the playoff run.

  4. Melanie Brown

    Just fyi, Arodys Vizcaino is throwing/practicing with AA Tennessee and has been here since the season opened.

  5. MichiganGoat

    So what are the outcomes for Stewart? I thought his contract was non-guaranteed but the injury caused that to become less black and white. After this 20 game clock ends what can be done and what is the financial impact for the Cubs? At this point it just doesn’t seem like Chicago is the right destination for him, are the Cubs on the hook for the entire contract?

    1. Jp3

      I thought Stewart had a contract for about 2 million that only $500k was guaranteed but if he was still on the Cubs on opening day the Cubbies were on the hook for all of it. I could be wrong MG, it happens a lot

      1. Cubbie Blues

        I believe you’re close. My recollection is there were a couple of milestones set. One was the 500k after a couple of weeks, then another 5-700k after another few weeks. Opening day roster makes the whole thing guaranteed. Since he wasn’t on the roster opening day where does that leave it.

        Caveat. I will echo what Jp3 said with, I could be wrong. It happens a lot.

        1. MichiganGoat

          Man if I could get a contract like that I would so injure myself ;)

          1. Cubbie Blues

            You wouldn’t have to do it to yourself. I’m sure there are plenty of people …

            1. MichiganGoat

              stop talking to my ex-wife

          2. Jp3

            The non-guaranteed nature of Stewart’s contract* becomes even more relevant in this context. The Cubs can cut Stewart by March 16, and owe him just 1/6 of his $2 million salary (or $333K). If they cut him by the end of Spring Training, they owe him 1/4 ($500K). Either way, Stewart will need to show that he’s worth that extra $1.5 million by Opening Day, or the Cubs might simply opt to save some cash.

            Plagiarism BOOM. The above paragraph was from one of the past Bleacher Nation God’s Wrath watches as it became apparent Stewart couldn’t walk and chew gum this spring.

            1. Cubbie Blues

              Good find Jp3.

              1. Jp3

                Doesn’t that sting a little knowing we just refused to fold that crappy hand at the poker table and kept calling the opposition with a pair of dueces in five card draw…to the tune of $1.5 million

                1. Cubbie Blues

                  Eh, it was worth the gamble. If the surgery had “fixed” him, we had a chance to flip him for a good bit (if he went back to what he once was thought to become (if that makes any sense)).

                2. hansman1982

                  Well, in order to cut a player in ST on an Arb contract, they have to be performing poorly. The problem was, Stewart just wasn’t performing, at all.

                  By cutting him when he was injured, the Cubs would have had a hard time justifying it. (not that I know what the “penalty” would be other than an angry players’ union (and not that I know if an angry players’ union is worth $1.5M)

      2. MichiganGoat

        Yeah but I thought the injury clouded all that. I sure it was discussed that he could be cut (and thereby only getting paid 500K) because of the injury. That’s what I’m wondering about. By getting injured did he magically get 3M without ever making the team officially? Somebody has to have an answer to this, and if the Cubs are a strapped for cash as Theo said that really sucks.

        1. willis

          Yeah what if they just release him outright since A. He sucks at baseball and B. the other 3B this team has are better?? What are the cubs on the hook for in that case?

          1. Noah

            The remainder of the contract.

        2. Jp3

          Cubbie blues and MG this all begs the question that if we’re so strapped for cash, why the hell didn’t we just cut bait when we had the chance. There is no way he’s done enough in his career to think he’s that much of an upgrade over whatever homeless guy we put on 3rd.

          1. Cubbie Blues

            I still have a question if we would owe him the remainder of the contract. If memory serves me correct you can’t cut an injured player (or is that just the NFL) without paying him his contract. If they were obligated to keep him on the payroll by the CBA, now that he is “healthy” couldn’t he be cut as if it were still Spring Training?

            1. hansman1982

              The Cubs could only release him for “free” in ST for poor performance.

              1. Cubbie Blues

                I guess I was going more off of the “spirit” of the contract than maybe what is in the contract (none of us have actually seen said contract). It was my understanding that Stewart essentially signed a prove it contract and wasn’t able to prove it.

            2. Jp3

              Good points by all, we were the idiots that bought a used Eclipse with an f’d up transmission even though we test drove it the previous year and it was obviously faulty… You know what, we should have to pay the whole thing because we were idiots. Better analogy or worse?

              1. Cubbie Blues

                The only problem with that analogy is that the transmission was taken to a mechanic that replaced the transmission. The problem is that they replaced it with the wrong gearing and now it runs like a Mirage instead of the Eclipse.

                1. Jp3

                  HA! Awesome, I knew someone would come through and fix it for me.

                  1. MichiganGoat

                    This all what I thought and it means that Stewart gets paid BECAUSE he is injured. MERICA!

                    1. willis

                      I hate him even more now.

  6. corey costello

    So, who gets kicked to the BP when Garza comes back?

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Odds on favorite is Feldman to return to his swing-man role.

    2. Noah

      It will be one of Wood, Feldman or Villanueva, and they’ll probably wait to determine who until the very last moment. They’ll stick whoever seems to be coldest in the bullpen.

    3. MichiganGoat

      Feldman, he’s the only one that makes sense. They could try a modified 6th man rotation, that allows Feldman to get regular starts and giving other pitchers an extra day of rest, but that would diminish the trade value of the other players. Right now you can’t send TWood or the Stashe because they’ve been too good and you’re not sending Shark or EJax either.

      1. Cubbie Blues

        Or, piggyback Stache and Feldman, but I don’t like that either.

        1. MichiganGoat

          I’m not against that but if the Cubs want to try and get value out of the Stashe (that so needs to be on a t-shirt) then having him skip starts is a bad bad bad idea. Just let Feldman become the long man, let him do spot starts for player rest, but don’t take starts regularly from a hot pitcher

          1. fromthemitten

            fuck it give him a shot at closing and see what he can do.

          2. corey costello

            Ahhh, makes sense.

            I can see it now.

            “Respect The Stache*

            on a blue cubs shirt

            with Villa on it.

        2. MichiganGoat

          I actually like the idea of having a 6 man rotation where the 6th man rotates through other pitcher starts, i.e. first week you take Shark’s spot, week 2 Garza’s spot, week 3 Ejax’s spot, etc. It would give pitchers more rest and if you get in the playoff a better rested 3-4 starter rotation, BUT this will never happen. Pitchers want the innings, wins, Ks, to make them look better come contract time. Plus the casual fan would look at their lines and think they are having an average year.

          1. Cubbie Blues

            Thing is, how much say does a player actually have? Their agent might gripe and moan, but that’s about all they can right? Of course, the table is then turned when it’s time to re-sign them or get other FA of the same ilk.

  7. ruby2626

    Need one more update. Juan Carlos Paniagua


  8. Jason

    Anyone know what’s up with Dillon Maples?

    1. King Jeff

      He pitched pretty well on Friday in Arizona. I think we are all just looking for him to finally stay healthy for a full season.

  9. BD

    When this article opened and I saw that particularly memorable picture, I LOL’d.

  10. gutshot5820

    Brett, you forgot about the Korean pitcher, Chang-Yong Lim. The Cubs hired my friend as his personal trainer and he is recovering much faster than expected. Supposedly, will be back in Chicago by June.

  11. Kenster

    Is it just me or do all injured Cubs players have setbacks and not return in time… (4 to 6 weeks turns into 10 weeks for example)
    They have all had setbacks but I feel like this is a common occurance even with prior cub teams

  12. willis
    1. Koyie Hill Sucks

      Cut him loose already… He was never very good to begin with, had one decent season…

      1. willis

        I agree and he just seems like a crybaby. He robbed the cubs blind last year, gets another shot this year (for what reason other than Theo saving face, I have no idea) and robs them again. The least he could do is be in shape and ready to go, instead he pulls his quad…ok, bad luck. Then it takes him a millennium to get back to playing because “it just won’t heal” and then he sucks it up in the most hitter friendly league in the Milky Way, and cries “I’m just not ready.” Screw this guy. Addition by subtraction, swallow your losses and go with guys who give a shit and want to help this team win.

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