Nick Madrigal’s Groin Injury is “Pretty Significant” – Or It Isn’t?

Interesting contrast in quotes on the groin injury that put Nick Madrigal on the Injured List yesterday, which sets up a bigger picture discussion about the Cubs’ second baseman.

Here’s how Madrigal discussed the injury, via Patrick Mooney:

“In my mind, I think that’s the game plan [to have a minimum stay on the IL]. As we get closer, I’m sure we’ll iron out all the details. But, yeah, I’d like to just jump right back in.”

By contrast, David Ross talked about being “extra cautious,” described the groin injury as “pretty significant,” and added this:

“We got to find a way to keep him on the field pretty regularly and let him continue to develop into a big-league starter, an everyday player. Some things have popped up with him here already this year. We’ve had some real setbacks, so we want to make sure we get him all the way healthy. Total body — make sure everything’s moving the right way (and he’s) taking care of his body as best he can and building up the strength in the areas where he can stay out there regularly.”

I don’t want to do TOO much reading between the lines, but the sense you get is that, while Madrigal is optimistically talking about the specific injury itself – maybe not that severe, and he can play soon – Ross is talking about the injury and its relationship to the overall body/performance this year. It sounds like Ross is thinking more globally about how to put Madrigal in the best place to succeed, not just get him back on the field quickly.

Which circles us back to something we discussed long before the earlier back injury that took him out (the rehab assignment for which was cut dramatically short by a need at the big league level). Although Madrigal has had big league success before, it was all in pretty short time periods, and after spending almost no time at all in the minor leagues. For a 25-year-old coming off a major injury last year, it wouldn’t be weird to think he needed time at Triple-A to work on his body and its relationship to performance.

No, you don’t option a guy to the minors because he’s injured, but you might option him to the minors to work on the physical application of his body to the game of baseball. It’s no secret that Madrigal is a smaller guy whose quality of contact has been abysmal this year. He simply wasn’t hitting the ball hard enough to be a big league player, and if there are any health issues that he’s not been able to stabilize, then it becomes all the more difficult for a guy with his frame to hit the ball hard.

So whatever the issue – whether it’s a “pretty significant” injury or a “pretty significant” need to improve physically – I wonder if this is the start of the conversation, finally, about having Madrigal actually spend meaningful time in the minors trying to get right.

Like David Ross said, the point is to “let him continue to develop into a big-league starter, an everyday player,” emphasis mine. I still believe there’s big league talent there, but we’re long past the point where it can just be assumed that Madrigal already is an everyday starter in the big leagues.

This may take some development work – on the health, on the body, on the swing. Can the Cubs really dedicate everyday big league starts to that right now, even when Madrigal is “ready” to come off the IL? I don’t think that’s the best plan for this year’s team, or even necessarily for Nick Madrigal.

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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