Cubs

Cubs unsure of Dexter Fowler's status after hamstring injury

Cubs unsure of Dexter Fowler's status after hamstring injury

The Cubs are in wait and see mode with Dexter Fowler and his hamstring injury.

Fowler suffered the injury in the first inning of Saturday's Cubs win over the Pittsburgh Pirates and was deemed unavailable for Sunday's series finale at Wrigley Field.

Right now, the Cubs don't know if they're going to have to put their leadoff guy — and the top All-Star vote-getter among National League outfielders — on the disabled list.

"He's sore," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Sunday's game. "We're still trying to evaluatle length regarding whether he's gotta be DL-able or not."

Maddon said he would speak more with Cubs front office members Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and the training staff about what the plan for Fowler should be moving forward.

"I don't have a final answer yet," Maddon said. "I really don't know the overall plan yet. I hope to finalize that. Because of course, if he has to be DL'd, we want to get somebody else in here. 

"But as of right now, we have not jumped to any conclusions."

In Fowler's absence Sunday, Jason Heyward moved over to center field, with Kris Bryant manning right field and Chris Coghlan in left and leading off.

The Cubs kick off a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field beginning Monday night on Comcast SportsNet. 

If Fowler were to miss any more time, Heyward could continue to play center, but it could also open up the door for rookie Albert Almora Jr. to see more playing time.

Coghlan and Matt Szczur provide other outfield depth and Bryant's versatility is a boost in situations such as this. 

But losing Fowler would be a big blow to the Cubs. He is boasting a .398 on-base percentage and .881 OPS and is tied for 12th in the NL in runs scored (41). 

Maddon always points to Fowler as the spark of the Cubs offense.

"This first part of the season really took on the tone that it did because of him," Maddon said. "When I say, 'You go, we go,' it's pretty much true. When he's making things happen at the top, the rest of the group seems to fall in order."

Fowler got off to a slow start in his Cubs tenure, hitting just .232 with a .308 on-base percentage in the first half last season. But he turned it on after the All-Star Break, posting a .272/.389/.463 slash line.

Since the break last year, Fowler has scored 89 runs in 135 games with the Cubs, helping the Cubs to a 96-45 regular season record in that span.

"It would not be good if we had to miss him for a bit," Maddon said. "I think we could cover, but he's been all of that. Kinda like the second half of last year, I thought after the All-Star break, he really came on strongly.

"I think this first half has just been a continuation of that. So you hate losing a guy like that, but if you do, then you just move it along and somebody else will show up."

The Cubs already have two players on the disabled list with hamstring injuries — Tommy La Stella and Jorge Soler.

Soler hit the disabled list June 7 and La Stella June 9. 

Both players were out on the field testing their hamstrings by taking ground balls before Sunday's game, but Maddon said La Stella is further along than Soler in the recovery process. 

The Cubs would send La Stella on a rehab assignment before he returns to the big-league club.

Soler still has no timetable to return. 

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Remember that one time Sammy Sosa threw out his back while sneezing? Well, Brandon Morrow may have topped that on the Cubs all-time list of wacky injuries.

The 33-year-old closer was placed on the 10-day disabled list prior to Wednesday's game after hurting his back while taking his pants off upon returning from the team's road trip to St. Louis. It's being labeled as "lower back tightness."

"It's frustrating any time you can't get out there, and especially when you can't go because of something stupid like taking your pants off," Morrow told reporters on Tuesday.

And that's put the Cubs pitching staff in a tough spot for the rest of the week, given Wednesday's series finale against the Dodgers is the third game in a little more than 24 hours for the Cubs.

"I don't want to downplay anything," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Obviously he had back spams, he had the same thing in spring training. We'll start treating it the same way we did in spring training; I think he was out about a week to 10 days. If things go as we hope, I think it'd be the kind of thing where he'd probably be able to be throwing before the 10 days is up.

"But we felt like it wasn't going to be something where he was ready this weekend and if he's not going to be ready all weekend, we can already backdate it three days so it made sense to put him on the DL."

Morrow is tied for fifth in the National League with 16 saves and owns a 1.59 ERA is 26 relief appearances this season. Justin Hancock, who served as the 26th man during Tuesday's doubleheader, stayed with the team as a result.

Pants, seat of the pants and sim games: The current state of Cubs pitching

Pants, seat of the pants and sim games: The current state of Cubs pitching

Dominating.

That's how a smiling Theo Epstein described Yu Darvish's simulated game at Wrigley Field Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, in the bowels of the "Friendly Confines," the Cubs' clubhouse was getting used to the idea of closer Brandon Morrow on the disabled list.

Such is life for the current state of affairs for the Cubs pitching staff with their two biggest additions from the winter now on the shelf at the same time.

Darvish threw roughly 50 pitches in his sim game against hitters Ian Happ and Tommy La Stella. He worked in all his pitches and liked the way his fastball and slider felt, but needs to refine his curveball and splitter with more work.

"I feel good," Darvish said through a translator. "There was some anxiety beforehand, but I think it turned out to be better than I expected."

Darvish said the anxiety stemmed mostly from his past elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in 2014.

"Definitly the elbow aspect," Darvish said. "The anxiety came from whether I could throw at 100 percent condition."

This is the second time Darvish has mentioned his past elbow injury is in the back of his mind as he's worked through the current triceps issue. He said the same thing last week in Milwaukee after his first bullpen session.

Remember, too, Darvish was concerned about the possibility of cramps in his arm in his Cubs debut in Miami in late March.

It appears as if he has some mental hurdles to work through with his history of elbow problems, but he hasn't reported pain in weeks now and the MRI showed no structural damage in late May.

The Cubs do not yet have a set plan for Darvish after this sim game and will evaluate how he feels Thursday. If the reports are all good, he could head out on a rehab assignment shortly.

Darvish said he would only need one rehab start before he'd be ready to rejoin the Cubs rotation.

Meanwhile, Morrow's back tightened up on him in the wee hours of Monday morning after the Cubs made the trip back from the night game in St. Louis. He hurt his back taking off his pants, he said, and was unavailable Monday and Tuesday before the Cubs put him on the disabled list Wednesday morning.

"It's just one of those freakish things," Maddon said. "People bend over and hurt their backs all the time."

The Cubs have been uber cautious with Morrow all year with his injury history and now that they're in the midst of a stretch of 14 games in 13 days thanks to Tuesday's doubleheader, can't afford to not have a fresh arm in the bullpen.

"We thought it would be wise to give him a couple days," Joe Maddon said. "It's like a back spasm, back tightness. We just can't go with one less pitcher right now coming off the doubleheader. 

"...It's for him, too. I don't want him to go out there and pitch coming off that right now. There's really no reason to rush it back. Prefer him getting 100 percent well, getting him back out there when it's right and then moving on from there."

In Morrow's absence, Maddon will play matchups with the closing options as he did in Game 1 Tuesday. Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson and Pedro Strop all have experience closing.

The Cubs also don't have an update yet on Carl Edwards Jr. as he works his way back from a shoulder injury. He's been throwing from flat ground and looking "outstanding," Maddon said, but the team doesn't have a finish line yet. Edwards would probably need a short rehab stint before returning, too.

Then there's Brian Duensing, who is currently on the bereavement list due to the passing of his grandfather. The Cubs expect to have their left-handed veteran back by Friday.

All told, the Cubs are without Morrow, Edwards, Duensing, Mike Montgomery (rotation) and Eddie Butler (DL - groin) from their Opening Day bullpen. Only Cishek, Strop and Wilson remain from the group.

In their stead are Luke Farrell, Justin Hancock, Randy Rosario, Rob Zastryzny and Anthony Bass — all 5 of which have been pretty successful during their time in Chicago.

As if there wasn't already enough complications with the Cubs pitching staff, here are three more:

—The weather in Cincinnati this weekend
—Tyler Chatwood's wife is about to have the couple's first child
—Monday's rain/light-out at Wrigley Field pushed Chatwood back a day, so he cannot start Saturday's game

Let's start with the weather. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was a 100 percent chance of rain all day in Cincinnati on Thursday, where the Cubs begin a four-game series. The forecast doesn't look much better for Friday, either.

Even if the Cubs are able to play every game as scheduled, who will start Saturday? It can't be any of the current rotation members given none would be on regular rest. 

Chatwood would be in line to start Sunday's series finale in Cincinnati, but that's only if his wife isn't given birth at the time.

So right now, the Cubs don't know who's going to start either game this weekend. They could call somebody up from the minor leagues or give the ball to Farrell, who is still stretched out enough to give them 4-5 innings or so.

"It's totally by ear," Maddon said. "This is absolutely seat of the pants. We have Farrell, of course. By not using Farrell [Thursday or Friday], he would be a consideration, no question. 

"But other than that, we got a baby on the way, we got all kinds of stuff going on, so we're just gonna have to play that by ear."

With the pitching shortage, it makes what Jon Lester (7 shutout innings Wednesday) and Mike Montgomery (6 innings in Game 2 Tuesday) even more important to the overall health of the unit, eating up innings at a desperate time.

The Cubs' next off-day won't come until July 2, barring any weather delays. So this stretch will be huge for how Maddon and the Cubs coaching staff/front office handles the pitching staff.

But hey, at least it's only June and not October.