Is Seiya Suzuki’s Oblique Issue Going to Put Opening Day in Doubt? (UPDATES: WBC No Go)

From the second we heard that Seiya Suzuki had been scratched with “tightness” in his “side,” I have been pretty terrified. Although it doesn’t always play out this way, “tightness” is often the initial description for a “strain,” and “side” is often the initial description for the “oblique.” And oblique strains and baseball go together about as well as kicks and undercarriages.

Unfortunately, things have proceeded quite poorly if you were looking for reassurance. Not only was Suzuki scratched this weekend, but whatever he was feeling was enough to justify going to get an MRI on his side. And not only did he get an MRI, but nearly two days later, we still haven’t heard anything on the results. None of these are good signs.

There isn’t an official announcement yet, but this article at the Sun-Times sure doesn’t make it sound like this is nothing. Instead, Maddie Lee writes about how Suzuki’s injury situation could impact the Opening Day roster – as in, it’s not certain that this injury will be resolved before Opening Day, so it could impact the Cubs’ planning. Moreover, Jordan Bastian writes at MLB.com about the Cubs’ contingency plans for right field, with David Ross talking about guys he might give extra reps to in right field in the coming weeks if Suzuki’s injury does prove to keep him out longer-term.

To be sure, nothing firm is being reported just yet on Suzuki, but if you were looking for comfort, you’re not going to find it there.

Let’s be honest here. *If* Suzuki is dealing with a legit oblique strain, then Opening Day is definitely in doubt (to say nothing of the World Baseball Classic, which would obviously be off the table (see UPDATE below)). Even a mild oblique strain is brutal for a baseball player – positional or pitcher – because the sport is so rotational. That, paired with the finicky nature of oblique muscles, means that you have to be sure a guy is COMPLETELY over a strain before you let him really get back to work at full go. Thus, oblique strains are notoriously difficult to predict in terms of recovery, and come with wide variances in return times. Re-injury is a serious risk. Just about nobody returns before four weeks, and even then, you have to get back up to game speed.

So, if it’s a legit oblique strain, given that it’s only now Spring Training, the Cubs and Suzuki are going to play this thing incredibly cautiously. The worst thing that can happen is that you try to get him back for Opening Day, only for him to re-injure the oblique in April, and then he misses multiple months of the regular season. Instead, he sits for several weeks now, and then builds back up from there, even if it means missing a chunk of the early part of the season.

This is all still hypothetical. We don’t know if there is a real strain at issue here (yet), though I suppose I would say we also don’t know whether there’s a mild, or moderate, or severe strain at issue. The news could be hopeful from here, or it could be really, really bad. All I’m saying is that, if a local report is talking about the possibility that Suzuki’s injury impacts the Opening Day plans, it doesn’t make me think this ISN’T a true oblique strain. And if it’s a true oblique strain, well, yeah, Opening Day ain’t happening.

This sucks. Hopefully we get good news in the coming days. But I’m pretty well guarded now against terrible news, especially considering how important Suzuki is to the Cubs’ competitiveness this year, and how a total disruption to his Spring Training and early-season could be a disaster in so many ways.

UPDATE: Well, yet another signal that this is definitely more than nothing. Sadly, Seiya Suzuki has withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic.

https://twitter.com/MLBastian/status/1630404110771183618

Suzuki would’ve left Cubs camp next week for the WBC, but now that will not happen. That was expected once this issue popped up, but I’m sure he was hopeful that a dang Spring Training injury wasn’t going to scuttle his chance to represent Team Japan – a loaded team at that, with a real chance to win.

I am dreading word on the severity of the injury tomorrow. Just dreading it.

UPDATE 2: So much dread:

That’s never good. You should go ahead and brace yourself for word that this is a serious oblique strain. I don’t see much reason to have a formal talk with the media, Suzuki and Ross together, unless that was the case. I’m sad.

written by

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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