The Chicago Cubs’ path ahead doesn’t get any simpler.
That may broadly be utilized to the route of a rebuilding group as group President Jed Hoyer tries to construct one other contender. However within the brief time period, this stretch of the Cubs’ schedule will take a look at how they stack up towards a number of the finest groups in baseball.
The Cubs have solely two extra off days between now and the All-Star break. And for a banged-up group that too typically is shedding shut video games, the subsequent 5 weeks might be a grind. The Cubs are attempting to keep away from a sequence sweep Sunday after shedding 8-0 to the New York Yankees on Saturday.
Listed here are three ideas on the group getting into the sequence finale Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
1. Seiya Suzuki’s gradual restoration from strained finger raises doubts on an imminent return.
The Cubs appeared near getting Suzuki again within the lineup.
Earlier within the week, supervisor David Ross declared Suzuki was in play to return for the Cubs’ weekend sequence towards the New York Yankees. Ross even declared he would “eat my phrases” if Suzuki wasn’t off the injured listing earlier than Sunday’s sequence finale. Properly, that point arrived — and handed.
Suzuki has been prescribed relaxation for round 5 days to permit his strained left ring finger to proceed to heal. The Cubs need to be certain that the swelling dissipates and that Suzuki doesn’t proceed to irritate it. So, which means no hitting throughout this era of relaxation.
Ross estimated Suzuki’s finger is at 85-90%. There isn’t a timetable for his return and it’s additionally too quickly to find out whether or not Suzuki will want a rehab project earlier than he comes off the IL.
“He actually desires to play and we attempt to take that into consideration,” Ross mentioned Sunday. “And he’s tried to work out and push it slightly bit and it’s nonetheless lingering slightly bit.
“All of us got here to the conclusion it’s not sensible to have a setback. … We’re simply going to be affected person with it.”
Suzuki’s sort of finger harm basically requires relaxation to get higher. The Cubs’ understanding from medical doctors is that his finger doesn’t want surgical procedure to resolve the ache and swelling. That’s excellent news at the very least. Nonetheless, Hoyer mentioned Saturday that “it’s going to take some time” for Suzuki to get again on the sector.
“Candidly, I’m OK with that as a result of this 12 months it’s actually necessary for him to assimilate, to face big-league pitching and determine what he must do going ahead in his profession,” Hoyer mentioned. “And coming again and and kind of having this nagging harm and not likely have the ability to do it effectively, it doesn’t make numerous sense. He wants to come back again when he can actually compete at this stage, and it’s laborious to try this when you may have a finger swelling up on a regular basis.”
It’s a discouraging growth for Suzuki and the Cubs. He hasn’t performed since Might 26 in Cincinnati. The flukiness of the harm provides a stage of frustration. An errant throw on a stolen base pressured Suzuki to regulate his slide, and his hand awkwardly hit the second-base bag, jamming the finger.
Hoyer mentioned Suzuki has seen “plenty of medical doctors,” together with getting checked out whereas the group has been in New York. Hoyer deliberate to sit down down with Suzuki earlier than Saturday’s sport to determine the subsequent steps.
“He actually desires to play and I feel that’s a part of the problem that we’re coping with,” Hoyer mentioned. “I feel he really feel like he must be taking part in. Our sense is to attempt to be prudent about it, however I do know we’re combating a aggressive man. I do perceive it’s fairly irritating, it’s a finger harm, proper? That may be irritating. You’re feeling prefer it’s only a finger, however it issues.”
Because the Cubs’ marquee offseason signing, Suzuki’s absence has been felt with the offense too typically arising brief in shut video games. Though Suzuki was in an offensive rut earlier than his harm, his presence within the lineup makes the Cubs higher regardless that he isn’t in the identical groove as when he was named Nationwide League Rookie of the Month for April.
The Cubs don’t need the strained finger to linger by means of Suzuki’s rookie season. That would power Suzuki to be sidelined longer than anticipated.
2. Jason Heyward survives roster selections — for now.
The choice to designate outfielder Clint Frazier for project Friday elicited a powerful response from Cubs followers on social media.
A vocal portion of followers expressed frustration that the 27-year-old Frazier, whose remaining arbitration years offers a group management by means of 2024, ought to have been retained over veteran outfielder Jason Heyward. These sentiments ought to, in idea, align with the Cubs’ big-picture imaginative and prescient because the group has confused the significance of weighing the longer term.
“In fact, there’s room to second guess all these selections, however I promise you it’s unbelievably sophisticated making an attempt to get it found out,” Hoyer mentioned. “There’s undoubtedly selections that we have now made or will make over the course the subsequent month or so that individuals have each proper to kind of second guess or query. And imagine me, there’s not unanimity after we’re making these selections. It’s actually, actually difficult.”
On the subject of Heyward, sooner or later his offensive inconsistency will change into an excessive amount of to disregard. Hoyer mentioned Heyward “hasn’t carried out this 12 months or final 12 months” to the extent he has needed. However Hoyer believes Heyward supplies numerous worth followers don’t see, particularly mentioning how he mentors younger gamers and his work ethic.
“I don’t assume his struggles are completely different than any anybody else’s struggles in some methods,” Hoyer mentioned. “So clearly, we made the choice we made relating to Clint and on the subject of Jason, we do see actual worth he supplies on each day foundation.”
The Cubs proceed to say the appropriate issues about Heyward and the way he nonetheless positively impacts the group. Accidents will assist him keep on the roster. However sooner or later, Heyward’s behind-the-scenes influence won’t be sufficient for the Cubs to miss his different deficiencies, no matter how a lot cash he’s nonetheless owed by means of 2023, the ultimate 12 months of his contract.
The Cubs may have shifted outfielder Michael Hermosillo (left quad pressure) to the 60-day IL to open the 40-man spot they wanted Friday for Chris Martin’s return from the restricted listing. As a substitute, the entrance workplace opted to DFA Frazier.
“The roster a part of this has been simply essentially the most difficult I’ve ever skilled,” Hoyer mentioned. “Making an attempt to determine our 40-man every day, making an attempt to determine the IL every day. My textual content threads are actually nothing however making an attempt to determine this out.”
The subsequent checks of Heyward’s roster safety may arrive when Suzuki and/or David Bote are prepared to come back off the IL.
The Cubs don’t have numerous selections to choice out amongst their place gamers. Christopher Morel has been taking part in too effectively, serving as a spark plug on the prime of the lineup whereas offering defensive versatility. P.J. Higgins is the one different place participant with minor-league choices remaining who realistically is an choice except they ship out Nick Madrigal to attempt to get him going at Triple A. In any other case, the Cubs would want to DFA somebody.
3. Christopher Morel’s rise may give the Cubs the younger star they want.
A standout 106 plate appearances into his big-league profession is sufficient to assume large about Morel’s potential.
Morel doesn’t flip 23 till June 24 but he has established himself as one of many Cubs’ most enjoyable gamers. After going 0-for-3 in Saturday’s 8-0 loss, Morel’s streak of reaching base safely ended at 22 video games to start his MLB profession, which set a franchise file. His defensive work in heart discipline and up the center has offered a lift for Cubs pitchers whereas stabilizing the leadoff spot within the lineup during the last three weeks.
Morel’s plate self-discipline has most stunned and impressed Hoyer.
“We’d like as many good younger gamers as we are able to probably put collectively to actually put collectively the sort of core that may go ahead and win,” Hoyer mentioned. “It’d be fantastic if he emerges and might be a part of that.”
Morel is an instance of how participant growth and the rise of standout gamers don’t all the time come from a company’s top-rated prospects. Morel reminds Hoyer of Willson Contreras and the way he, too, wasn’t a heralded prospect to the purpose the place the Cubs left Contreras unprotected for the Rule 5 draft earlier than the 2015 season.
There are not any ensures Morel will stick with the Cubs for the remainder of the season, not to mention past 2022. Kyle Schwarber, in 2017, and Ian Happ, in 2019, are examples of younger gamers from the earlier core that the Cubs despatched to the minors once they struggled. For now, that’s not a priority with Morel. Their confidence and perception in him is obvious by placing him on the prime of the order each sport.
“His instruments play within the large leagues, for certain,” Hoyer mentioned. “You see his arm, that’s the half that I feel we all the time knew may play. It was the bat-to-ball expertise and the plate self-discipline. And I don’t know if it is a completely different stage of focus he has up within the large leagues, however definitely that stuff has been unbelievably spectacular.
“He’s having an enormous influence on the group.”