The Cubs announced Tuesday that an MRI revealed a “moderate” left oblique strain for right fielder Seiya Suzuki. The 28-year-old has already withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic, but it’s not yet clear how much time he’ll be expected to miss.
Chicago has taken a strangely vague approach to Suzuki’s injury status, declining to delve into specifics on the strain (i.e. Grade 1, Grade 2). The team originally announced Sunday that Suzuki was being hampered by tightness in his left oblique and was slated for some imaging, with the expectation that an update would be provided yesterday. Instead, manager David Ross demurred Monday and told reporters that the Cubs remained in “wait-and-see” mode. Today’s update, outside of acknowledging a strain, offers no further clarity on the severity of the injury or a potential timeline for Suzuki to return to the field. At this juncture, it’s not clear whether the team expects him to open the season on the injured list.
Suzuki, 28, is headed into the second season of a five-year, $85MM contract signed last winter. He enjoyed a strong, albeit injury-shortened debut campaign in MLB last year, appearing in 111 games and batting .262/.336/.433 with 14 home runs, 22 doubles, a pair of triples, nine steals, a 9.4% walk rate and a 24.7% strikeout rate. Suzuki missed more than a month with a finger injury and was also away from the club while on the paternity list. His production was particularly stout in the season’s first and final months, but the end-of-year output clocked in about 16% better than that of a league-average hitter, by measure of wRC+.
The Cubs’ options in right field, should Suzuki miss time, consist of utilitymen Christopher Morel and Zach McKinstry; corner infielders Trey Mancini and Patrick Wisdom (who has 199 big league innings of outfield work), minor leaguers Nelson Velazquez, Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario (all on the 40-man roster); and non-roster invitees Mike Tauchman and Ben DeLuzio (among others). Ian Happ and Cody Bellinger are expected to hold down left field and center field, respectively.
As Patrick Mooney of The Athletic points out, Ross had specifically mentioned Wisdom as an option in right field if Suzuki is sidelined. Wisdom himself was scratched from yesterday’s Cactus League game due to tightness in his groin, but he’s back in the lineup for today’s game.