Cubs

Injury Report: Cubs avoid big blow to pitching staff; Austin Jackson battles turf toe

Injury Report: Cubs avoid big blow to pitching staff; Austin Jackson battles turf toe

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

CUBS

It looks like the Cubs have dodged a couple potential big-time injuries to their pitching staff this week.

Jason Hammel was forced to leave his start on Memorial Day after only two innings. He came out to warm up before the third and suddenly found himself on the ground clutching his leg.

The Cubs called it a hamstring cramp, but Hammel is fully expected to make his next start Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Meanwhile, closer Hector Rondon was unavailable for a couple games after his back tightened up during a pregame workout. But everything appears to be OK on that front for now, as Joe Maddon said Rondon was good to go for Friday's game. 

If either Hammel or Rondon were forced to miss more time, it would've been a tough blow for the Cubs pitching staff. 

Hammel is 6-1 with a 2.09 ERA as part of the best starting rotation in baseball. Rondon is the anchor in the bullpen, posting a 1.04 ERA and 0.635 WHIP while going a perfect 9-for-9 in save chances.

WHITE SOX

Austin Jackson left Sunday's contest after battling turf toe on his left foot. The White Sox didn't place Jackson on the DL. His return to the lineup is uncertain.

Last week, the White Sox placed Kevan Smith on the 7-day disabled list with an undisclosed injury. The 27-year-old catcher has missed nearly a month of action due to a back injury, but it’s unclear if he’s battling the same injury. Smith has only played in one game in Triple-A Charlotte in the last month and a half.

Jake Petricka has been out since May 2 due to a right hip impingement. The White Sox reliever is currently rehabbing in Arizona, but there’s no timetable for his return.

Daniel Webb also has been out of action for a while. Webb suffered a right elbow flexor inflammation injury and was placed on the 15-day DL on April 29. He remains there and it’s unclear when he’ll make his return.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."