[UPDATE: See below. They’re headed to Iowa.]
It’s been a long wait for the Chicago Cubs to get two of their outfielders back from hamstring injuries, as Jorge Soler’s been out since early June, and Dexter Fowler’s been out since mid-June.
With fingers crossed, though, it’s possible both will be back soon.
Per Cubs.com, both Fowler and Soler are expected to start minor league rehab assignments this week after successfully running the bases yesterday. For Fowler, that would be more akin to re-starting a rehab assignment, as his pre-All-Star-Game assignment lasted just part of one game before being scrapped. The new plan has been that he’d rehab somewhere in the early part of this week before finally re-joining the big league team at the end of the week.
As for Soler, other than seeing pictures and video of him working out on the field and occasionally running/jogging the bases, we’ve not gotten much in the way of updates or timelines on his return. So, hearing that he is expected to start a minor league rehab assignment this week is relatively big news.
Given the length of his absence and his previous hamstring injuries, I’d expect Soler’s rehab assignment to last a good bit longer than Fowler’s, which is to say I wouldn’t be dreaming on a Soler return to the big league team any time before next week at the earliest.
When the two outfielders return, the Cubs’ roster will be shifted rather dramatically (in part because there are other changes coming on the pitching side, plus a Trade Deadline), so it’s tough to even speculate on how they will be accommodated. As presently constructed, you’d probably guess Albert Almora Jr. would be optioned back to AAA Iowa for one of the spots (Fowler figures to be back first), and then perhaps the Cubs choose between risking losing Matt Szczur (he has no options left) or sending down a pitcher.
As I said, it’s all extremely academic at this point, because a whole lot is going to change before Soler is ready to return.
It’s easy to forget, but Soler was really hot when he went down – he’d been hitting .318/.434/.591 in the 53 plate appearances before his injury, and had started playing better defense, too.
UPDATE: Woo hoo, some specifics:
Fowler and Soler expected to play for Iowa on Tuesday. #Cubs
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 18, 2016
It’s nice to know that each player is getting right at it early in the week, and that definitely puts the end of the week for a Dexter Fowler return in play. For Soler, I still think it’ll be a touch longer to get back into the rhythm of the game and to have more confidence that the leg is 100%.