At his press conference before the game yesterday, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein discussed a few injuries on the team. The news is mixed.
Reliever Neil Ramirez got an MRI after he was pulled from a game against the Reds on Wednesday – three pitches in, with velocity way down – and the results were relatively good. There were no structural issues, and instead, there is just some inflammation in the back of his shoulder (Cubs.com). Ramirez was very clearly uncomfortable, and that pain could easily have caused the drop in velocity, even if it wasn’t a serious, surgery-requiring injury. Given that he’s had shoulder issues in the past, it was not an overreaction to fear something worse here. So this is good news.
That said, it’ll still be a road back for Ramirez. I’m not a doctor, but in my limited experience following these kinds of injuries, the process looks something like this (very rough guideline, and every individual case is different): rest and take medication to get the inflammation down (a week or two), exercise to restrengthen shoulder muscles and maybe do light throwing (another week or two), build back up to competitive mound work and go through a rehab stint (two to three weeks). So, even though this is a “good news” situation for Ramirez, you still should not expect to see him back with the Cubs any time before late May, and it’ll more likely be later than that. Just hope for a smooth, easy recovery, and a boost to the bullpen come sometime in June. Anything better than that should be a pleasant surprise.
Also on the bright-ish side, Epstein said that Justin Grimm (forearm inflammation) is throwing in Arizona, and will soon be ready for a bullpen session. From there, after a few of those, I’d guess, he could head out on a rehab stint. If that goes well, he’d be ready to come back to the Cubs. With Ramirez going down, the urgency to get Grimm back – a guy who was actually even better than Ramirez, arguably, in the second half last year – kicks up a notch. At this point, you could cross your fingers for maybe two or three weeks? I know, that’s still a little while.
On Mike Olt, however, the news is not good, any way you slice it. Initially – by which I mean, the moment you saw that 96mph fastball hit his wrist and make a very ugly sound – we thought he’d be out for months, at least. But, after the game, the X-rays showed no break, and Olt even said the swelling was gone by the next day. He played as a pinch hitter and late-inning sub this week, and it looked like he wouldn’t miss any significant time. But, then, Thursday night, it was reported that Olt was going to have to go on the disabled list with what turned out to be a newly-detected hairline fracture in his wrist. The Cubs placed him on the DL yesterday, and the word was he’d be in a cast for three weeks before rehabbing.
Now that’s he’s actually gone through the casting process – and perhaps another round of evaluations – the word is worse:
That's a real cast on Mike Olt. Wrist. 4-6 weeks, then rehab pic.twitter.com/itNoD3hZ6M
— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) April 18, 2015
And now we’re pretty close to where we expected to be when the ball first hit him. Setting aside the timetable for a moment, the main hope here is that there is no long-term issue with Olt’s wrist. That can be a huge power-drain for hitters, so fingers crossed that there’s not a lot of wrist-entanglement in the injury, and he’s back to 100% after the rest and rehab.
Although Olt’s job was not necessarily secure anyway with Kris Bryant on the way, he never even got a real shot to show what he had this year (other than his defense, which was excellent). Now, he may never get that shot. Moreover, at worst, Olt was excellent depth to have in case of Bryant injury or struggles or needed time off or whatever. Or maybe an outfield injury pops up, and Olt somehow helps out there. Olt could have been a great guy to have on the bench, or a guy to head to AAA, possibly dominate, and then see what happens. I am bummed for Olt, and I’m bummed for the Cubs’ depth.
Hopefully he gets the cast off in four weeks, and is baseball-ready a couple weeks after that. The Cubs would be into June by that point, but who knows what needs will have emerged.