It’s hard to imagine forgetting that the Chicago Cubs have been playing without their starting shortstop, catcher, and ace, but it sure feels like that’s what we’ve done (thanks a lot, winning).
Indeed, the Cubs have been without each of Addison Russell (foot, August 2), Willson Contreras (hamstring, August 9), and Jon Lester (shoulder fatigue, August 17) for a while now, but they won’t be out for the rest of the season. So let’s get a quick update – from the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, and Cubs.com – on where each of them are at their respective rehabs and returns to the Majors.
Starting with Russell, who was the first to go out. In case you forgot, Russell was dealing with a right foot issue – later described as a muscular strain and plantar fasciitis – on August 2 and wasn’t actually expected to miss much time.
According to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune, Russell might be back on the field before the end of August, which would be great, even if a much longer absence than was originally expected. And for what it’s worth, Russell, himself, sounds pretty optimistic: “I would say two weeks is a little bit too long … I’m definitely looking maybe 1 1/2 weeks at most.”
Russell later added that he’s not too far off and he could even return before the 1.5 week timetable is up (though, if I were a gambling man, I’d bet they just put off a roster move and let him return when rosters expand in September).
In any case, Russell said there’s almost no soreness left and he’s been able to be “explosive” when he’s done his drills in the field. That’s all great news, and we can’t wait to have him back. Remember, despite Javy Baez’s success, Russell is the better overall defensive shortstop and Baez’s return to second base could really shore up the infield defense (not to mention, Russell’s bat might be better than Ben Zobrist’s at the moment).
Moving on, catcher Willson Contreras, who suffered a right hamstring strain a week after Russell’s injury, is also said to have looked “explosive” in his drills on the field. In fact, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times wrote that Contreras was running “aggressively,” during the drills, but still cautioned that an early return is unlikely. The Cubs, according Wittenmyer, still consider Contreras in the early stages of activity and have no target date for a return just yet. Recall, the injury was originally dubbed a four to six-week affair. It’s been two.
Maddon preached caution, as well: “He’s running pretty good, and I know he’s feeling pretty good, but I don’t want him to go too quickly, either. You’ve got to be careful with those kinds of injuries.” Obviously you have to be careful with leg injuries of any kind, especially when the player is a catcher, but this all sorta goes double for a guy like Contreras, whose age and recent production could turn him into a franchise cornerstone for a very long time.
Even without a return date, though, you have to be happy with the fact that he’s running at all, let alone “aggressively,” and that he generally feels good. Fortunately, the Cubs are well-positioned to keep playing without Contreras, as the lefty Alex Avila and his back-up, righty Rene Rivera, are holding down the fort.
INSTA-UPDATE: A little more on Contreras just now:
W.Contreras doing a ton of work in the OF. Shuttles, sprints, push ups then right into sprints, Tim Buss working him out
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 23, 2017
And finally, Jon Lester, who exited his game against the Reds last week with shoulder fatigue after surrendering nine runs (seven earned) in just 1.2 innings pitched, is eligible to return from the 10-day disabled list on Monday. Apparently, he recently tested his shoulder by playing catch, though there’s not much information on how that went.
Jed Hoyer did recently discuss the team’s optimism over Lester, though given all of what he said, I’d bet (based on a hunch) that they’ll let Mike Montgomery take two starts in a row, instead of having Lester return and immediately start the first day he’s eligible (even though that is his/Montgomery’s spot in the rotation). And, like Russell, it may just be easier to let him return when rosters expand in September, instead of forcing a move three days before September 1.
So in the end, this is all pretty good news. Russell and Lester are feeling good and could return before the month is over (but both will probably be back around September 1), and Contreras feels good and is already running on a recently-injured leg. Given how well the Cubs have performed lately, these injuries haven’t been as painful as they could have been, but I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to see this particular trio back.