Cubs’ Marcus Stroman nears return, Jason Heyward to IL

The Cubs placed outfielder Jason Heyward on the injured list Tuesday, making him the third Cub to go on the IL without an injury designation, which usually means a COVID-19 related stint.

Heyward joined starting pitcher Marcus Stroman and reliever David Robertson. But Stroman is nearing a return from the IL. He was cleared and threw a bullpen on Tuesday, according to Cubs manager David Ross. Stroman could slot in as soon as the next turn in the rotation.

“We’ll see how he presents tomorrow,” Ross said Tuesday afternoon.

Stroman and Robertson, who have been on the IL since early last week, played catch together while sidelined, Ross said. But the Cubs have not yet revealed a timeline for Robertson’s return.

Heyward hasn’t played since Sunday in Arizona and hasn’t been in the starting lineup since last Friday.

“I think he feels okay,” Ross said. “And hopefully he’ll be back really soon.”

Ross had said Monday that Heyward was dealing with body aches and dehydration.

“And turned out,” Ross said the next day, “it was something different.”

In a corresponding move, the Cubs selected left-hander Brandon Hughes from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday. They also recalled utility player Christopher Morel from Double-A Tennessee and optioned lefty Conner Menez to Triple-A.

“It’s a long season; a lot of different things happen along the way,” Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner said. “And we always tell guys just to be prepared for that day when your number is called. These two guys have been doing a great job in the minor leagues, just trying to get better every single day, and today happens to be their opportunity. And we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do with it.”

Hughes, who the Cubs drafted as an outfielder out of Michigan State University in 2017, converted to pitcher three years ago.

“It actually, to me, gives you a sense of comfort when they do come up here,” Ross said of players with non-traditional paths through the minors, “that the first sense of struggles that they might have, that they’ve already come out of a lot of that in the minor leagues and overcome a lot. That they’re just going to continue to work and get better and continue to challenge themselves and they know how to compete. And those are all things I’ve heard about Brandon.”

Hughes gives the Cubs another left-handed option in the bullpen. And the Cubs are going to face lineups with plenty of left-handed hitters in the coming days, between the Pirates and the Diamondbacks.

Morel moved up to Triple-A last year, for 10 games. But he started this season in Double-A, hitting .306. He said he learned Monday night that he was heading to Chicago.

“He’s a really energetic, infectious player,” Banner said. “He can play all over the field. That makes him really valuable. He can run, he can hit for power, he just can do so many things on the field, that this is just going to be a great opportunity for him.”

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