I’m not particularly happy that the Cubs don’t have a game to play today – especially because they’ve been pretty hot lately (winning 7 of their last 10) – but more days off *right now* might be in their best interest.
As I’m sure you know, the Cubs Injured List is currently filled to the brim with pitchers. Each of Tony Barnette, Xavier Cedeño, Brandon Morrow, Mike Montgomery, and Jon Lester are on the shelf/working their ways back from injury, and even Carl Edwards Jr., who’s down at Triple-A to work out his control issues, hit the IL yesterday with a scrape on his hand. And while not every one of those names is a critical component of the roster, I do spot an Opening Day starter, the top swing-man, and the team’s closer among the casualties. It could be worse, but it could be a lot better, too.
To that end, it sounds like every one of these pitchers is working hard to return to the team (or, in some cases, to finally make his Cubs debut) and here are some of those updates:
- Yesterday, we learned that Carl Edwards Jr. was hitting the DL after falling down some stairs and scraping his pitching hand. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer didn’t seem concerned, though, calling the injury entirely superficial and something that should be fine (i.e. non-impactful) as soon as it heals up. “It’ll cost him a little bit of time, but not a lot of time.” Obviously, even after Edwards returns from the IL, he’ll have work to put in at the Triple-A Iowa, but it’s at least nice to know that this injury shouldn’t affect his timeline there too much.
- Erstwhile Cubs closer Brandon Morrow is still working his way back from a collection of injuries that’ve sidelined him since last July. About a week ago, Jordan Bastian reported that Morrow had been throwing off a mound for nearly a month and was almost ready to face hitters. Jed Hoyer has an update on him, focusing on the broader strategy for his rehab: “Given his injury history in the past, we’ve tried to take it really slow with him. Our goal is to get him back and once we get him back, to know that he’ll be healthy and pitching for us for a while.” Hoyer went on to further concede that they’ve been particularly conservative with his journey back, which feels like the right call. Maybe it’s a tiny risk, but I would rather have Morrow back for the entire second half of the year with no contributions in the first half, than on-and-off the rest of the way. “We obviously want him back, but we’re not gonna rush him.”
- [Brett: Fair enough, and his litany of prior injuries is more significant than Yu Darvish’s, but it’s worth pointing out that, while Darvish had his elbow scope in mid-September and was fully ready to face batters in early February, Morrow had his scope in early November and is not, to our knowledge, yet facing hitters. To the extent this is just a matter of being conservative, it is *very* conservative.]
- Hoyer was relatively brief on his updates for offseason signings Xavier Cedeño (wrist) and Tony Barnette (shoulder), but did mention that the former would be making a rehab appearance in Double-A Tennessee tonight, which is obviously a very good sign. If he can get 2-3 good appearances in a row – and feel healthy doing it – he might be able to jump up into the big league bullpen right away if there’s a need. If you forgot about Cedeño’s upside, take a look at this post from back when he first signed with the Cubs. He’s been very good.
- As for the latter, Barnette, Hoyer said he’s starting to “throw games in Arizona”, presumably in extended Spring Training. That likely puts him a bit behind Cedeño, who’s already scheduled to participate in real games as soon as tonight, but does indicate measurable progress. And Barnette, like Cedeño, has some real, immediate upside that could help the Cubs bullpen as soon as he returns.
- Jon Lester (hamstring) “has been doing great,” according to Hoyer. There’s still no exact timetable, but Hoyer said they should have a better sense of exactly that as soon as tomorrow, when they meet with the medical staff. Because Lester’s injury was not arm-related, Lester has continued throwing “a lot” to keep up his arm strength. And with that in mind, the best you can hope for is little-to-no ramp-up time as soon as returns. Of course, as we know, pitchers use their hamstrings for extra leverage off the mound, so it’s not like the injury is entirely unrelated. Because it’s still only April and there have been off-days to work around, the Cubs’ biggest concern is not rushing him back.
- Lester is eligible to come off of the IL tomorrow, by the way, but he’s not scheduled for the next turn in the rotation.
- And finally, Mike Montgomery (left lat strain), who’s celebrating the birth of his first child this week, threw 27 pitches, including 19 for strikes, over two innings last night at South Bend. After his outing, he said it was “fun to get back out there,” and that the appearance was “a good step,” back in the right direction. According to the South Bend Tribune, there was talk of another outing in the minors before he’d return back up to the big leagues, but he thinks he’s ready and likes where he’s at.