PITTSBURGH — The Cubs revealed Jason Heyward has been dealing with a nagging wrist injury since the first week of the season and now hope some rest and treatment will get the Gold Glove outfielder closer to full strength.
Scratched from the lineup, Heyward walked through PNC Park’s visiting clubhouse with his right wrist wrapped in ice after Monday’s 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, which might help explain why the Cubs are still waiting for a power surge from one of their signature offseason acquisitions.
“I thought I was playing today until I came in (and saw the lineup),” Heyward said. “I don’t see any need to go on the DL. I don’t think they do either. (Let’s) just make sure we get it calmed down and going in the right direction.”
Heyward informed manager Joe Maddon and the training staff about his condition Sunday in Chicago, tracing it back to the season’s second series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in early April. Heyward felt something while doing drills off a tee with a bat weight at Chase Field and found it easier to manage and stay loose in the warmer weather.
“I don’t think it’s a long-term kind of thing by any means, but his wrist is sore,” Maddon said. “He hasn’t said anything, and then finally he said something, so we’re trying to react to it right now.”
The Cubs gave Heyward the biggest contract in franchise history, guaranteeing eight years and $184 million for his age-26 upside, elite defensive skills and offensive profile as a patient, disciplined hitter.
The Cubs have already seen Heyward make momentum-shifting plays in right field, change the dynamic at the top of the order and reinforce an aggressive mentality running the bases.
But the wrist problem might have contributed to Heyward’s zero home runs through 23 games and .573 OPS in 100-plus plate appearances.
“You’re not going to have the same amount of confidence or the same comfort every time,” Heyward said. “If you foul a ball off, check swing, swing and miss, sometimes it’s going to be uncomfortable. But other than that, that’s it.
“There’s no excuse with the way anything’s gone — good or bad or indifferent. I just need to get it fixed and feeling better and going in the right direction.”
Heyward said the Cubs haven’t scheduled him for an MRI on his right wrist.
“He’s the last person who would ever make an excuse,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “But he got off to a slow start last year, too. And then when it clicked, he was off and running. I think that’s what we’ll see with him.”
Last season, Heyward hit .217 with a .611 OPS in April for the St. Louis Cardinals before increasing his production in May (.783 OPS) and June (.881 OPS). He hit .318 after the All-Star break, getting on base almost 40 percent of the time for a 100-win team and finishing with a 6.5 WAR rating.
At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Heyward’s built like a slugger, even if that’s not necessarily his game, and his swing tends to need regular maintenance.
“He’s a tall guy with longer arms,” Epstein said. “It takes him a little bit of a while to feel his swing and get locked in. No concerns.”