Seiya Suzuki’s Second Successful Start at Iowa, and What Comes Next (UPDATE)
Chicago Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki made his second rehab start at Iowa yesterday, this time at DH, and getting four at bats. He singled once, struck out once, popped out, and grounded out.
The way these rehab assignments typically go in recent years with the Cubs is that a guy gets back-to-back days like that, and then a day off to recover and be evaluated. I would expect that’s the same today – Iowa is off today anyway – with the Cubs feverishly trying to decide if Suzuki is ready to return to the big league Cubs without another Triple-A game. (SEE UPDATE BELOW)
On the one hand, it seems relatively clear at this point that Suzuki is over his oblique strain. He’s played in four or five live games at this point over the course of a week without issue. So what he and the Cubs need to decide is whether he’s game-ready enough to face big league pitching and contribute at his baseline level. You want to get him back as soon as possible, but you don’t want to do it when he’s not built up enough to (1) be productive, and/or (2) not have his ramp-up slowed down further.
I would not expect Suzuki to rejoin the Cubs tonight in any case, but tomorrow seems pretty likely at this point if he’s not going to play any more games at Iowa. If he is, then I wouldn’t expect Suzuki back until the start of the West Coast road trip, which begins on Friday against the Dodgers.
The Cubs will have a very interesting decision to make when Suzuki is ready to return. Thanks to the way they’ve been filling in for him in right field, coordinating with multiple other positions, it’s not as if Suzuki is simply replacing one guy who is obviously headed to Iowa. Any of Miles Mastrobuoni, Edwin Rios, or Nick Madrigal could be that guy, or the Cubs could decide they no longer want to carry a third catcher in Luis Torrens (unlike the first three, though, he cannot be optioned to Iowa, so he’d have to hit waivers).
UPDATE: It sounds like the Cubs will indeed be giving Suzuki a little more time at Triple-A Iowa before bringing him back up:
To be sure, many position players say they don’t need a full spring training to be ready for the regular season, so Suzuki being shy of 50 ABs doesn’t necessarily tell you much about his readiness. That said, I have no problem with the Cubs wanting to make sure Suzuki has complete confidence and comfort before he’s back there in the big league lineup, where his presence is going to be leaned on so aggressively for production.
As I said, Iowa doesn’t play today, and Suzuki was likely to get the day off anyway. So now I wonder if what we can tentatively expect is that Suzuki will play Tuesday and Wednesday for Iowa, and then the Cubs will make a decision about his readiness to join the team for the weekend series in Los Angeles.
With Suzuki not returning ASAP, the move to bring up Nelson Velazquez today makes even more sense.