It would be a stretch to call this The Year of the Oblique, but it does seem like we’ve heard more about the largest of the muscles on the lateral anterior abdomen (yeah Wikipedia!) than in years past. Tommy La Stella’s long recovery – and re-injury – from an oblique strain is a part of that, but outfielder Jorge Soler recently went down with an oblique injury of his own.
Given the unpredictable recovery time associated with the injury, it was tough to say how long Soler would be out when he went down on August 24. No one wanted to say it out loud, but everyone was thinking it: there was a chance that Soler’s season was over.
That chance still exists, but Soler, himself, is expressing optimism that he’ll be back (Cubs.com, ESPN). He could start swinging a bat tomorrow, though the timeline for recovering from there isn’t entirely clear.
If and when he does return, it’ll be interesting to see how he could be incorporated back into the mix, particularly now that the Cubs have acquired Austin Jackson (thank heavens for that trade, eh?) and have brought up Javy Baez and Tommy La Stella (each of whose presence could limit where Chris Coghlan can play, which, together with the presence of Kyle Schwarber in the outfield (assuming he’s not seriously injury; more on that in a moment), could wind up limiting Soler’s time). It’s possible Soler would find himself part of a rotation, rather than a regular starter, which could lessen the urgency to get him back quickly if he’s not 100%.
There’s no question, though, that it would be good to have Soler back. It hasn’t been a great year for the 23-year-old, but he’s developing (he’d just gotten into a nice, patient hot stretch), and possesses uniquely threatening potential at the plate. Even if that comes in the form of spot starts and pinch hitting appearances, you’d rather have that than not have him at all.
Apparently Soler initially injured himself on August 22, but it wasn’t serious enough to take him out … but a throw the next day did. Guys play with minor dings and boo-boos all the time, but the risk of it turning into something more serious is always present.
Presumably, that’s why the Cubs are playing it extra cautious with Kyle Schwarber, who was scratched yesterday after feeling something in his right rib area while taking swings yesterday morning. He was to get an MRI and/or other tests, the results of which may not be available until tomorrow (Cubs.com, ESPN).
The hope, of course, is that there’s nothing serious going on in there for Schwarber, and I’d be OK with not hearing the word “oblique” again for the rest of the season. Perhaps getting yesterday off, and then getting more rest today will be enough to get Schwarber back to where he needs to be. Even if not, giving him a few extra days rest to ensure he can be healthy for the final few weeks wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Let’s not forget that this is going to be a very long year for a guy in his first full professional season, and he caught a ton of games in the minors.
After the game, Maddon remarked that his biggest concern with respect to Schwarber is potentially losing his third catcher and the flexibility that brings (Tribune). The flexibility afforded by having a third catcher on the roster who can play elsewhere definitely does provide value – for example, you can use both of the other catchers in a given game without fear (which could show up as soon as Friday, when David Ross will catch Jon Lester, and you might want to be able to use Miguel Montero off of the bench). But, beyond Friday, the biggest concern about losing Schwarber for any real stretch of time has to be more about losing his big bat at the top of the lineup.
So, then, we hope for no serious issues. Perhaps Schwarber gets a few days off and comes back healthy and refreshed. If he comes back even sooner than that, well, bonus.