Cubs center fielder Jake Marisnick made an early exit from Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Pirates, as a right hamstring strain forced Marisnick to depart during the top of the first inning. While pursuing a Wilmer Difo fly ball to left-center field, Marisnick seemingly took a bad step and then fell to the ground as Difo’s hit fell for a single. Marisnick was immediately removed from the game, with Kris Bryant taking over in center field and Joc Pederson replacing Bryant in left field.
Manager David Ross told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link) and other reporters that Marisnick will undergo further tests tomorrow to determine the extent of the strain. Hamstring problems were a recurring issue for Marisnick last season when he played for the Mets, as separate injuries to both hamstrings led to two separate trips to the injured list, and he ended up playing only 16 games in 2020.
Signed to a one-year free agent deal worth $1.5MM in guaranteed money, Marisnick was ticketed for a fourth outfielder role for Chicago. With Ian Happ injured, however, Marisnick has seen more regular duty in center field, and delivered in something of an unexpected way. Known for his defense more than his hitting over nine MLB seasons, Marisnick’s defense hasn’t been great (-1 Defensive Run Saved, -35.7 UZR/150) over 118 innings in center field, but he is hitting .264/.350/.623 over 60 plate appearances.
If Marisnick’s absence wasn’t enough, Jason Heyward was also removed from the game for a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning due to what Ross described as a problem with his right hand. Heyward is also undergoing examination from team trainers. It’s been a tough start to the season for the veteran outfielder, as Heyward is hitting just .173/.239/.317 over his first 113 PA.
The Cubs don’t play on Monday and they also have an off-day on Thursday, so it’s possible Heyward and Marisnick might have enough time to recuperate without a trip to the IL. That being said, being down two outfielders would leave Chicago pretty short-handed with Happ and Nico Hoerner also sidelined, and it would leave Bryant as the team’s top center field option. Cameron Maybin, Ian Miller, and Rafael Ortega are all available at Triple-A, though none are on the Cubs’ 40-man roster.
In better injury news for the Cubs, Jake Arrieta is tentatively scheduled to return from the injured list for a start against the Tigers on Friday. In a pregame chat with reporters (including Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago), Ross said that Arrieta felt good after a bullpen session yesterday, and would throw another bullpen on Tuesday or Wednesday. A right thumb abrasion sent Arrieta to the 10-day IL on May 4, so he would miss only the minimum 10 days if he was activated on Friday. Arrieta has a 4.31 ERA/4.63 SIERA and a below-average 20.7% strikeout rate and 8.9% walk rate over 31 1/3 innings for Chicago this season.