The Cubs have been without right-hander Marcus Stroman for just over a month now thanks to inflammation in the 32-year-old hurler’s right hip and a subsequently-diagnosed rib cartilage fracture. Upon the reveal of Stroman’s rib injury two weeks ago, whether or not he would be able to return this season came into question as he was set to be shut down for several weeks without a clear timeline for recovery. Fortunately for fans on the north side, Stroman’s timetable seems to be coming into focus with a return this season clearly still on the table.
Manager David Ross told reporters (including Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun Times) ahead of today’s game against the Reds that Stroman will throw a bullpen session in Arizona. That still leaves a long way for Stroman to go before he can return to a major league mound; assuming tomorrow’s bullpen goes well, he’ll need to progress to facing live hitters and then likely require at least a rehab start or two in the minor leagues before he can return to the starting rotation for the Cubs. Still, even a brief cameo from Stroman before the regular season comes to a close could be a huge boon to Chicago.
Stroman sports a 3.85 ERA and 3.58 FIP across 23 starts this year, but it’s really been a tale of two seasons for the veteran hurler: while he posted a sterling 2.28 ERA and 3.33 FIP in his first sixteen starts, his final seven starts before hitting the injured list saw him post an ugly 9.00 ERA, albeit with a less outlandish 4.39 FIP. It’s hard to say how much of that downturn in performance was related to Stroman’s current injuries, but a healthy and effective return for the right-hander would not only help the Cubs as they look to make the playoffs in a full season for the first time since 2018, but also give them another quality option to start in the playoffs alongside lefty ace Justin Steele and veteran hurler Kyle Hendricks, should they succeed in reaching the postseason.
More from around the NL Central:
- Sticking with the Cubs, Lee also relayed updates from Ross regarding a trio of potential bullpen options for Chicago down the stretch. Left-hander Brandon Hughes and righties Nick Burdi and Ben Brown are expected to pitch today with Triple-A Iowa. Hughes was a breakout reliever for the Cubs last year with a 3.12 ERA in 57 2/3 innings of work with the club last year, but struggled through 13 2/3 injury-plagued innings earlier this season before undergoing knee surgery back in June. Hughes’s return to the bullpen would surely provide a boost for Chicago as swing option Drew Smyly is the only southpaw in the club’s bullpen at the moment. Brown has not yet pitched in the majors but is one of the club’s top prospects who had long been rumored as a potential late-season bullpen option prior to an injury that kept him out of action for the entire month of August. Burdi managed just three innings with the Cubs earlier this season in his first major league work since 2020 before going on the injured list with appendicitis and ulnar nerve irritation.
- It seems the Reds will be without rookie infielder Matt McLain for a while yet, as the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Charlie Goldsmith relayed an update from manager David Bell indicating that McLain would be out with an oblique injury for two to three more weeks. Such a timeline would likely leave him out of action for most of the remaining regular season. That’s a major blow to the Reds, who have relied on McLain’s strong bat (129 wRC+) and quality glovework around the infield and sit alongside the Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Giants in the thick of the race for the final NL Wild Card spot. Fortunately, the Reds could still receive some reinforcements for their infield in the near future as second baseman Jonathan India is on track to begin a rehab assignment this week after missing the past month with plantar fasciitis.
- Cardinals manager Oli Marmol indicated to reporters (including Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat) that left-hander Steven Matz’s season could be in jeopardy as the veteran is still “week-to-week” in his rehab from a lat strain sustained last month. Marmol noted that there is “probably not” enough time for him to return in 2023. Daniel Guerrero of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch adds that a return from Matz would likely be limited in terms of length, as Matz won’t have time to get stretched out as a starter before the season comes to a close. Matz has had an up-and-down season with the Cardinals this year but will end the season with solid overall numbers if he’s ultimately unable to return. In 25 appearances (17 starts), Matz posted a 3.86 ERA, 11% better than league average by measure of ERA+, with a 3.76 FIP in 105 innings of work.