The Cubs don’t have a timetable for Jorge Soler yet, but the rookie outfielder doesn’t believe his strained oblique muscle will become a season-ending injury.
“I’m going to be back,” Soler said Wednesday at Wrigley Field through interpreter/coach Franklin Font.
While the Cubs miss Soler’s presence in the lineup right now, this could also be a much bigger-picture issue for a franchise that gave him a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012.
That turned out to be a shrewd investment in the Cuban market for Theo Epstein’s front office, because there’s no denying the talent. Staying healthy and getting on the field has been the biggest concern with Soler.
“I’m not ready to label him as ‘accident-prone’ or ‘injury-prone’ or whatever,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Let it just play out. Let’s see how it goes. And as he gains more major-league (experience) with playing baseball on a 162-game schedule, he might be able to stay healthier as he gets older.”
Soler played only 151 games across parts of the last three seasons in the minors while dealing with a series of leg injuries. He is built more like an NFL linebacker, the type of athlete that typically doesn’t play baseball at a high level anymore in this country.
The Cubs monitored Soler’s workload in spring training and then had him go 49-for-49 in games played before he sprained his ankle in early June, awkwardly landing on first base while trying to hustle for an infield single.
“It happens,” Maddon said. “But a lot of times, my experience has been guys that maybe as they’re younger fall into this trap. And as they gain more experience, it kind of goes away.”
Soler hoped to maybe swing a bat on Friday, but oblique injuries are particularly difficult to project (see Tommy La Stella). The Cubs placed Soler on the disabled list on Aug. 24, but he said he first felt something two days earlier on a throw to second base.
The Cubs had been seeing signs that Soler’s power might finally start to emerge. Overall, he’s hitting .265 with seven homers, 42 RBI and a .710 OPS in 90 games this season.
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Soler’s extended absence helped drive this week’s Austin Jackson deal with the Seattle Mariners. Jackson – a right-handed hitter who can move all over the outfield – played in seven postseason series with the Detroit Tigers between 2011 and 2013.
“There’s definitely the mitigating factor,” Maddon said. “Austin is a good baseball player, man. He’s having a good year and he’s really been hot. Furthermore, he’s been there and done that in this time of the year, and that really helps, also. So I thought it was an outstanding move on the part of our guys to get him here under these circumstances.
“Losing George at this moment was not very good. But I think we’ve done a nice job of trying to fix it up a little bit. So I’m really excited about Austin and what he can do here.”