Last night, Jen-Ho Tseng made his Major League debut, taking the rotation place of reliever Mike Montgomery, who was, himself, taking the place of an injured Jake Arrieta (hamstring).
At the same time, Javier Baez started at shortstop for the 39th game since August 3, as the Cubs current(?) starting shortstop, Addison Russell, continues to make his way back from injury (plantar fasciitis).
And while each fill-in has done his part admirably, progress has been made for both injured starters. So let’s check in on how each is doing, and see what a timetable for return looks like.
Jake Arrieta strained his right hamstring in a start against Pittsburgh on September 4 and has been out ever since. But yesterday, according to multiple reports, Arrieta threw about 25 pitches off the mound and it went perfectly well. Apparently, the pitches weren’t exactly a part of a “full-fledged bullpen session,” but that will be the next step for the former Cy Young winner.
And while there’s still no specific timetable for Arrieta’s return, there’s hope that he could be back soon enough to make three more starts before the end of the year (that would likely mean he picks up the ball the next time through the order, but we’ll have to see about the timing of that).
More specifically, Patrick Mooney is hearing that the Cubs are targeting next weekend’s series against the Brewers in Milwaukee for Arrieta’s return, though the plans remain fluid, as his absolute, 100% health remains a priority. Arrieta, for what it’s worth, feels good and even suspects this break could be good for him/his arm down the stretch. He’s also hoping to be back sooner rather than later, so that he can make three full starts before (hopefully) the playoffs.
Addison Russell has been sidelined since August 3 with what’s essentially a right foot injury, but could also be nearing a return. Previous estimates had Russell back for the final week of the regular season, if everything went well.
Yesterday, Russell took batting practice and performed some fielding drills, as he eyes a return, perhaps sooner than we expected. “Addy is feeling really good,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He is pain-free right now. Everybody likes what he’s doing. He’s getting very, very close.”
Precisely how close isn’t quite clear, but at the Chicago Tribune, Mark Gonzales suggests there’s a chance he might even be activated from the disabled list before today’s opener against St. Louis. Of course, with expanded September rosters, that’s not quite the statement it would be at other points in the year, since he’s not forcing a roster move either way.
And in fact, even if he were activated today, the plan for Russell remains easing him into games (remember, he nearly returned to the Majors already, before he re-injured his foot in a Minor League rehab game). So, at best, he would probably be available for a pinch-hit appearance (or something similar) this afternoon. But either way, that’s a really big win for the Cubs, who were, at one point, preparing to finish the season without him.
All together, this is great news for the Cubs, who may soon get one of their best starting pitchers and shortstops back as things heat up in the NL Central.