Before Brandon Kintzler walked off the mound in pain last night, I was on Twitter pointing out that the Cubs have actually dealt with their fair share of injuries to key players this season. And it’s true.
Just count ’em up: They’ve had three starting pitchers go down (Lester, Hendricks, Hamels), along with two legitimate closers (Morrow, Kimbrel), three other typically important relievers (Strop, Montgomery, Edwards), their All-Star catcher (Contreras), their good young back-up catcher (Caratini), and, now, their top remaining reliever, Kintzler, could be next (to say nothing of shorter-term injuries to Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo along the way). Daniel Descalso is also on the IL.
Fortunately, all three starters are healthy again and two of the aforementioned relievers have been traded. So things aren’t quite as dire as the preceding paragraph would sound without context. But it’s still not great. At the moment, the Cubs have four of their potentially most-impactful relievers on the mend (Kimbrel, Morrow, Strop, Kintzler) plus a huge bat in Contreras sidelined.
Here’s the latest on each of them, starting with the bat …
- Contreras has confirmed the results of the MRI (grade 2 hamstring strain) with reporters, adding that he won’t be able to anything at all until Week 2 of his recovery, which doesn’t exactly instill much confidence for the targeted return date of “four weeks” from yesterday. Neither do his comments (even if they’re wise): “I’m going to take it slow. I’m not going to rush it,” Contreras told Cubs.com before Monday’s game. “The guys on the team know I can’t control this, what’s happening, but I can control how good I can do my recovery …. I’ve got to be smart about it. I’m not going to rush it, and by the time I get back, I’m going to be 100 percent.”
- For this season and the ones to come, a slow, thoughtful rehab process is the best idea for both Willson Contreras and the Cubs. In the meantime, his presence in the lineup will be sorely missed.
- Shortly after feeling some discomfort in his right knee after an appearance against the Brewers on Saturday, Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel underwent an MRI, which revealed some inflammation that needed to be addressed, given his history (back in 2016, Kimbrel was forced to undergo meniscus surgery on the other knee). This issue isn’t thought to be nearly as serious, though both he and the Cubs are clearly open to working preemptively to keep it that way.
- “Instead of making a bigger problem than it is, we’ll let it calm down and get back out there,” Kimbrel said. “It’s the smart decision to let it rest.” The continued position of the Cubs is that they don’t expect him to need much more than the 10 Days allotted by the IL, but they’ve been known to … eh hem … underestimate these predictions before. I will add that while losing Kimbrel for any period of time is obviously the focus, the real loss here is the progress he was making ramping back up to speed after no competitive baseball for the first 3-ish months of the season: “Timing-wise, I was getting real close,” Kimbrel said. “I was feeling really good. … It’s unfortunate I have to take a little break.” Unfortunate, indeed.
- The Cubs’ other closer, Brandon Morrow, just had another procedure done on his arm, but is suddenly more optimistic than we’ve heard in months: “With the way I’m feeling, I expect to progress quickly,” Morrow said. “I guess not more than a month away from being back.” The near-term plan includes throwing on a mound this week at the Cubs Spring Training complex in Arizona, and in the meantime, he’s been throwing from up to 120 feet with “good reports about how he is feeling,” according to GM Jed Hoyer.
- I’m not particularly optimistic on Morrow – at all – given what it’s taken to even get this far, but I suppose anything is possible. I will say that with a tight division race expected in September, Morrow won’t have many low leverage innings to figure things out at the big league level. So he’ll have to come back in time to get at least 2-3 Minor League outings under his belt before taking his shot in Chicago. The I-Cubs season ends on September 1st, so …
- Pedro Strop went on the injured list out of … necessity, I’d call it, more than anything else, but the actual words were tightness on the left side of his neck. Joe Maddon has an update on that, via Josh Frydman:
Maddon says Pedro Strop is "Doing very well. Close to being able to pitch in a game." #Cubs
— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) August 5, 2019
- According to MLB.com, however, the Cubs have (1) not set a definite timeline and (2) not decided whether Strop will make a rehab appearance in the Minors, first. Hoyer and Strop are apparently going to discuss next steps after tonight’s game.
- Given the seemingly more mild nature of Strop’s injury and the immediate losses of Kimbrel and Kintzler, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Strop back sooner than not. That doesn’t mean he’ll be “fixed,” but the Cubs might just need some arms.
- And finally, on Kintzler, the Cubs’ surprise savior out of the ‘pen this season, his potential pec injury comes at the worst possible time (when Kimbrel, Morrow, and Strop are all already out). It’s being labeled nothing more than “discomfort” for now, but he’s expected to get further tests done today. Perhaps there’s still hope for him, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another trip to the IL. At a certain point, with fewer quality options, the Cubs will need as many usable arms as they can get to play matchup – heck, this could be Tyler Chatwood’s time to shine in a shorter stint role. Someone wrap up Rowan Wick.