The Chicago Cubs have three position players currently recovering from hamstring injuries – Dexter Fowler, Tommy La Stella, and Jorge Soler – all of whom went down roughly in the same stretch of the season, but each of whom has a different time line for returning to the team. The one cohesive takeaway, though: never be optimistic about hamstring strains. However mild they seem, players simply do not come back before three or four weeks.
Dexter Fowler suffered his hamstring strain back on June 18, and, although the Cubs initially indicated that the mild strain might cost him only week of action, he was placed on the disabled list. That makes him eligible to return July 4, and, since he almost didn’t even go on the DL, that means he’ll definitely be back on the 4th, right? Nope.
Joe Maddon told reporters that he’s not sure exactly when Fowler will be back, but it won’t be Monday the 4th. Instead, it sounds like the range of possibilities is extremely wide: as soon as Wednesday, July 6 (Tribune), or as long as after the All-Star break (CSN). There has been no talk of a setback, so it must be a matter of taking extreme caution with Fowler’s return (and also not necessarily wanting to commit to a specific return date publicly). It remains to be seen whether he’ll require a rehab stint, but, once you’re out more than two weeks, it can be a good idea to at least get a handful of at bats in the upper minors to get back into the timing of things.
The Cubs finish off this series in New York, then go to Wrigley for three against the Reds and one against the Braves before heading to Pittsburgh for three. So, even if Fowler is held out through the All-Star break (and the game, itself?), he’d miss only an additional seven games beyond the minimum DL stay. Not good. Not horrible. It’s quite clear that the Cubs need a healthy and productive Fowler back, though.
Tommy La Stella, on the other hand, should be back much sooner, even perhaps as soon as this weekend against the Mets. La Stella hit the DL back on June 9, and has been on a rehab assignment with AAA Iowa. He’s played in four games there, and is presumably ready to return to the big league team when the timing is right. It’s a little tricky from a roster perspective, as the Cubs are currently going with eight relievers, and have added Chris Coghlan, Willson Contreras, and Albert Almora Jr. to the roster since La Stella went down. I think the Cubs are best served when they have La Stella’s high-contact lefty bat available, so something will have to give. Without another injury, perhaps the Cubs go down to seven relievers when La Stella returns? Or maybe when Fowler returns? Contreras is not going anywhere, and, although Almora can be optioned to AAA, Coghlan (and Matt Szczur) cannot.
And then there’s Jorge Soler, who would complicate the roster issue even more … if he were close to returning. The update on Soler is essentially that there is no update. Soler suffered his hamstring injury June 6, and, having had hamstring injuries before in his career, it was always a good bet that he was going to miss more time than most (which was such a bummer, because he’d finally been playing much better in left field and hitting consistently very well). Soler is taking batting practice and running in the field with the Cubs before games, but there is no indication that he’ll soon head out on a rehab assignment. I mean, that could happen soon – he’ll need one before he returns – but we’ve not been given any indication of that.