MILWAUKEE — As the Cubs began their series with the Brewers in Milwaukee Thursday, they initially had Javy Baez in the starting lineup and were excited about finally getting an opportunity to look at an offense operating at full strength for the first time this season.
Two days later, they're now reeling from the news that Baez's thumb injury is actually a hairline fracture and the Cubs will be without one of their most important players for the near future.
The Cubs have only 21 games remaining in the season after Saturday and entered the day 2.5 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. It's a very real possibility Baez misses most — if not all — of the remaining regular season slate, though no timeline is known yet until after he meets with the team's hand specialist on Monday.
Baez was scratched from Thursday's lineup when he could not complete a full round of pregame batting practice. He tried hitting again Friday, but was still being hampered by the thumb, so the Cubs scheduled an MRI for Saturday morning in Chicago.
Baez initially hurt the thumb sliding headfirst into second base on a stolen base in Sunday's game against the Brewers. He received an X-ray that day that came back negative, but Saturday's MRI revealed the hairline fracture.
"It's no fun," manager Joe Maddon said. "I figured something was up. He wants to play and he comes out to the ballpark wanting to play and he swings a little bit and it's hurting, so you know he's not gonna mess around. I was concerned something like this was gonna be the result and now we just gotta wait until he sees the specialist and then figure it out from there."
Baez finished second in last year's NL MVP voting and currently ranks second on the Cubs in RBI (85) and homers (29) while playing elite defense at shortstop.
"It's very unfortunate," Willson Contreras said. "Javy's the heart of this team. He plays for us with his hair on fire. We're gonna miss him a lot, but like somebody said, one steps out, one steps in. Of course we're gonna miss him and hope he recovers really soon."
In Baez's absence, the Cubs will roll with Addison Russell as their full-time shortstop.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.