Injury issues are not going away for the Chicago Cubs.
Some players are moving in the right direction. Right-hander Alec Mills and left-hander Sean Newcomb made rehab appearances at Triple-A Iowa on Friday while Clint Frazier was activated from the injured list Saturday before the City Series opener against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. The outfielder missed 31 games because of an appendectomy.
Michael Hermosillo was transferred back to the 10-day IL while left-hander Brandon Hughes, who was brought up from Triple-A as a substitute player during the Cubs’ COVID-19 issues, was returned to Iowa.
Jason Heyward also rejoined the Cubs for their weekend series but is not ready to come off the IL. Heyward has been cleared for baseball activities and is ramping back up. He is on the IL without an injury distinction, which typically is COVID-related.
However, the Cubs face looming IL decisions on left-hander Wade Miley and outfielder Seiya Suzuki.
Miley told the Tribune he has been feeling “a little something” in his left shoulder and considers himself day to day. Miley, who was scheduled to start Sunday against the White Sox, described it as a knot in the shoulder. Right-hander Marcus Stroman (2-4, 4.71 ERA) wants to start in Miley’s place.
The veteran said he was never able to get loose during his start Sunday at Wrigley Field, explaining how he grinded through the outing, which was more of a struggle than his quality start indicated. He was concerned initially when his arm didn’t bounce back well afterwards.
“I know I didn’t have a normal spring, so I’m basically four starts in,” Miley said. “That’s kind of where I feel like I am right now, in the middle of spring training. Maybe just need a couple days.”
Miley played catch Saturday afternoon under the watch of pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and head trainer PJ Mainville. Miley felt better Saturday compared with when he played catch a couple of days ago.
“It’s something I’ve dealt with before,” Miley said. “I don’t think it’s anything serious. I just want to get it out of there.
Team President Jed Hoyer indicated Saturday some concern about Miley’s shoulder, saying “we’re working through that.”
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“You certainly hope that this is something you can get out of quickly,” Hoyer said. “But we don’t want to creep up all year.”
Suzuki was not in the Saturday lineup because of his sprained left ring finger. Hoyer met with him after the outfielder went through pregame baseball activities and said Suzuki’s finger is still sore, swollen and stiff. The Cubs would need to make an IL decision Sunday if they want to backdate him the maximum three days.
“You hate to put a guy on the IL and on Day 5 he tells you that he feels great,” Hoyer said. “But there obviously comes that moment with the backdating you want to make that decision by.”
The Cubs began a stretch Saturday of playing 11 games in nine days thanks to two doubleheaders. Playing short-handed is never ideal, especially facing a game-heavy stretch. The Cubs’ 40-man situation complicates their options.
“Right now, the 40-man’s a real consideration,” Hoyer said.
The Cubs have only two healthy position players on the 40-man in outfielder Nelson Velázquez, who was recently promoted to Triple A for the first time, and Double-A outfielder Alexander Canario. They have limited healthy options on the pitching side, too, led by Mark Leiter Jr., Conner Menez and Hughes.
“You don’t want to mess up the 40-man or lose a really good player for something that might be two or three days, so we’ve been thinking about those things a lot,” Hoyer said. “I think we will get through these double headers. We’ll get through some of these short-term ILs. I think when we do that we’ll have a better chance to make some of those decisions that might affect our 40.”