CHICAGO — The Cubs were expecting Marcus Stroman to be taken off the injured list and back on the mound at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. That plan fell apart when the All-Star player reported discomfort in his right side when the team left Toronto last weekend.
Now, the Cubs face an uncertain schedule for Stroman, who has been diagnosed with a fractured right rib cage cartilage. Right-handed Javier Lion moved into Strowman’s rotation on Wednesday against the White Sox, and the North Siders will enter wait-and-see mode when it comes to trying the veteran’s final comeback.
“I have no idea. That’s the honest truth,” Hoyer said. “We don’t really know at this point. Obviously we’re going to give him a real break and see how he feels. But I mean, again, it’s not a real common pitching injury. I’ve never seen that before.”
Stroman has been at IL since Aug. 1 with a sore right hip, but the right has worked through three sessions on the team’s recent trip through New York and Toronto with encouraging results. He completed a 50-pitch workout on Friday and another light session on Sunday, which put him on target to start on Wednesday.
On Sunday morning in Toronto, Stroman told reporters he was “right where I feel like I should be” and expressed his excitement at leaving IL. By the end of the day, he reported to the team that he was experiencing pain in his side, which led to an MRI exam on Monday for the team.
Both Hoyer and director David Ross said it was not clear how the setback occurred. Stroman was not available for comment prior to Wednesday’s game against the White Sox.
“Obviously he’s disappointed,” Ross said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how long and how much pain he’s actually in. And to get him back, we’ll have to rely on him being symptom-free. So how long that takes, nobody really knows. So, it’s just kind of up in the air.” .
Against the White Sox, the Lions compiled his second consecutive start, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings for the North Siders. The lack of run support resulted in a no-decision by Right, who converted to a 1.38 ERA over his last 12 games with the Cubs.
“We are a better team when [Stroman’s] said Nico Horner, the Cubs’ second baseman. “But we’ve had an absolutely fantastic job from our people filling it in. And we’ll continue to do that.”
“[Assad] He’s just a guy I feel like he’s not going to turn out very differently one way or the other – and I mean that in the best way. He was comfortable and confident with everything that was handed to him.”
The Lions are likely to remain in the rotation for now, and the Cubs have solid depth at the top of the crew between Justin Steele, Jameson Tellon and Kyle Hendricks. Behind that group, lefty Drew Smillie and righty Hayden Wisinski offer a pair of options.
Smyly and Wesneski were both in the opening day rotation, but recent conflicts resulted in moves to the bullpen by both of them. Given the current situation, Ross said he’s leaning toward giving Smyly the fifth in the rotation, which will come next on Tuesday in Detroit.
“We have some depth,” Ross said. “Sometimes that gets tested and other guys have to step up when you want to go to the playoffs. Every team deals with little things that come out like that. We have a lot of pros in that room. A lot of good racers. We’ll be fine.”
The 32-year-old Strowman cranked out a 2.28 ERA in his first 16 starts, which marked a 7-0 run with a 1.29 ERA in seven starts before the London Series at the end of June. During that June 25 outing, an All-Star blistered, resulting in an early exit at the front end from a rough stretch (9.00 ERA in seven starts).
The Cubs were looking to win back a first-half copy of Stroman for the extended running back, but others were picking up the slack. Back on June 25, the Cubs had a 24-19 record (entering Wednesday) and were once again back in the National League Central and Wild Card races.
“Sure, we were hoping to get him back tonight,” said Hoyer, W.C [for him to] Start promoting the way it was in April and May. Obviously, this did not happen. But we’ve been playing baseball great for a long time. I think this time of year, you kind of roll with things like that and move forward. We have depth.
“Obviously we’ve been using that depth for a while and performing, so we’ve got to keep doing that. This time of year, you don’t stop and get stuck too much. You say, ‘It’s too bad.’ We’d love to have him promote us, but he’s not. We will continue to play well.”
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