Cubs southpaw Cole Hamels exited his start Friday with a left oblique strain, manager Joe Maddon told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com and other reporters. The severity of the injury won’t be known until Hamels undergoes an MRI, but he will go on the injured list, according to Maddon.
Oblique issues often lead to weeks-long absences, which is one of the last thing the Cubs need in this instance. The Cubs are already without their top starter, Kyle Hendricks, who hasn’t pitched since June 14 because of shoulder inflammation and may not return until after the All-Star break. Beyond that, Chicago’s rotation hasn’t gotten great performances from the established trio of Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish.
With their starters not firing on all cylinders this year, the Cubs are sitting a somewhat disappointing 44-38, though they do hold a half-game lead over the second-place Brewers in the NL Central. The Cubs lost for the 11th time in 18 games Friday, when Hamels lasted a mere one inning against the Reds. The 35-year-old was amid yet another quality season before suffering his oblique strain, as evidenced by a 2.98 ERA/3.56 FIP with 8.76 K/9, 3.16 BB/9 and a 51.1 percent groundball rate in 99 2/3 innings.
Hamels’ injury could certainly affect the Cubs’ plans leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. For now, though, they’ll have to make do with in-house arms after Lester, Quintana and Darvish. Tyler Chatwood and prospect Adbert Alzolay have each started games of late, though neither righty has soaked up many innings in those showings. The Cubs also have experienced lefty swingman Mike Montgomery, who replaced Hamels on Friday, but he has posted surprisingly subpar numbers this year and hasn’t thrown more than 2 1/3 innings in a game since May 9. Otherwise, the Cubs may have to dip into the minors if they want to find a Hamels replacement from within.