Cubs ace Marcus Stroman exited his start against the Cardinals in London this morning after just 3 1/3 innings of work due to a blister on his right index finger. Fortunately, as noted by Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune, the injury is not currently considered to be particularly serious. In conversation with reporters following the game, Stroman pointed out that this wasn’t the first time he’s dealt with blisters in his career, likely referencing his 2018 trip to the IL with a blister on his right middle finger. That stint on the shelf ultimately lasted two weeks, but Stroman says that he’s optimistic he’ll be able to make his next start, which would likely be slated for next weekend’s series against the Guardians.
It’s hard to overstate Stroman’s importance in keeping the Cubs afloat this season. After today’s loss to the Cardinals in London, the north siders sport a 37-39 record that leaves them just three games back of the Reds for the division title in a weak NL Central. That the club remains within striking distance in the division can be attributed heavily to the performance of Stroman, whose 2.28 ERA entering play today led the NL, while his 196 ERA+ led the majors.
Stroman’s dominant performance so far this season has made it seem like a no-brainer for him to decline a $21MM player option following the 2023 campaign and test the open market. Despite that, he’s been vocal about his desire to stay in Chicago even as the lack of extension discussions have led to trade speculation. Whether the Cubs ultimately fall out of contention as the calendar flips to July and the trade rumors intensify or the club cements itself as contenders who will continue to lean on their best pitcher down the stretch\, the club is surely hoping for a quick return to the mound for the veteran right-hander. In the event Stroman does miss time, the Cubs seem likely to rely on the services of youngster Hayden Wesneski in his stead.
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- Speaking of veteran right-handers who could draw interest from clubs ahead of the trade deadline on August 1, the White Sox might welcome Mike Clevinger back to the active roster prior to the All Star break. Manager Pedro Grifol indicated to reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that a return prior to the midsummer classic was possible, but that he won’t return in a relief role and will be held out until he can be built back up to rotation-length outings. Clevinger has offered solid if uninspiring consistency at the back of the south side’s rotation this season, pitching to a 3.88 ERA and 4.88 FIP in 62 2/3 innings of work. A return before the All Star break could give potential suitors additional confidence in Clevinger’s health ahead of the trade deadline, when the 34-45 White Sox seem likely to sell off rental assets.
- Sticking with the White Sox, one hurler who Grifol asserts will definitely not return prior to the All Star break is closer Liam Hendriks, who is on the shelf with right elbow inflammation. While Hendriks initially expressed optimism he could return in a couple of weeks, citing a similar injury last season that cost him three weeks, Grifol’s updated timeline would put the right-hander out of action for over a month. Hendriks has pitched just five innings this season between his current stint on the IL and his recovery from a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. With Hendriks on the shelf, Kendall Graveman has stepped in as the closer for the White Sox this season.