NEW YORK – The Cubs continue to juggle injuries to their rotation, a challenge highlighted Saturday as they placed veteran lefty Wade Miley on the 15-day injured list with a left shoulder strain.
It was the same injury that landed him on the IL less than two weeks ago, and they had just activated him to start Friday. But in the third inning, the shoulder issue cropped up again.
“It’s very frustrating,” Miley said Friday night, in a week with two off days after the Cubs had played 11 games in the nine days prior. ” … The bullpen was back set, and then three innings, and we’re right back in the same boat with 17 straight [games on the schedule.]”
In a corresponding move, the Cubs recalled reliever Michael Rucker from Triple-A.
The Cubs have three starting pitchers on the 15-day IL, with Miley joining Marcus Stroman (right shoulder inflammation) and Drew Smyly (right oblique strain). They also skipped Kyle Hendricks’ turn in the rotation to manage shoulder fatigue. The right-hander is scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Padres, nearly two weeks after his last start.
The Cubs have, by necessity, turned to some less experienced arms to fill the holes in the rotation. Rookie Matt Swarmer made his third major-league start Saturday against the Yankees. Right-hander Keegan Thompson, who the Cubs moved from a multi-inning relief role to a starting job, is scheduled to start Sunday. Lefty Justin Steele is penciled in for Monday.
Cubs top pitching prospect Caleb Kilian is a logical option to call up for another start, if not for this turn in the rotation, likely in the next couple weeks.
Suzuki’s progress slow
Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki was scheduled to throw and hit again Saturday, but his sprained left ring finger has made little progress healing in recent days. He’s been sidelined since injuring his finger while siding over two weeks ago.
“He wants to be back in there bad,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “but the finger doesn’t look great. And it’s really stayed almost status quo. So, we’ll continue to look at a lot of options.”
According to Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, the Cubs have sought multiple opinions on Suzuki’s injury and sent him to the doctor in New York this week, while in town for the series. The doctors have not recommended surgery.
“Just nagging injuries,” Hoyer said. “The minute I saw him go down in Cincinnati, that was my biggest fear. … There’s also zero reason to come back if you’re either going to end up right back on the IL, or you’re going to swell up in game, or it’s going to be a constant nagging injury.”
Cubs break precedent
When it comes to salary arbitration, the Cubs are a “file and trial” team. But according to Hoyer, catcher Willson Contreras’ representation reached out to the club a few days before Contreras’ scheduled arbitration hearing.
“Once they did you, we definitely had a desire to reach a settlement,” Hoyer said. “We told them that at the time: this isn’t something we want, we don’t want to go to a hearing here. We’re willing to break precedent because of the nature of the season, and so it made a lot of sense.”
In a year with in-season hearings due to the lockout, the Cubs and Contreras agreed to a $9.625 million salary for 2022, the deal coming together the night before the hearing.