The Cubs bullpen received a blow this week, as right-hander Rowan Wick headed to the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain.
The injury could end Wick’s season, Cubs manager David Ross said Saturday, no matter how long the Cubs’ playoff run lasts.
“He’s been a lockdown guy … in the back end of games and thrown really well,” Ross said. “So yeah, it’s a huge loss."
The Cubs also activated left-hander Andrew Chafin off the 10-day IL on Saturday. He will fill the opening in the bullpen left by Wick, but Ross said he’ll assess Chafin’s exact role once he sees him in game action.
According to Ross, Wick suffered the injury in his last outing, on Wednesday against Cleveland. Ross noticed Wick stretching his side before he induced a ground ball for the final out of the seventh inning, retiring the side in order. As he walked off the field, he mentioned the discomfort in his side to catcher Willson Contreras.
Ross originally planned to send him back out onto the mound in the eighth inning, but Wick reported a burning sensation and cramping in his side.
"He got some testing done," Ross said, "and it was pretty bad."
Wick (3.12) had established himself as a reliable option at the back end of the Cubs bullpen this season. The right-hander racked up four saves, second on the team to only Jeremy Jeffress (8). His placement on the IL is retroactive to Thursday.
As Ross put it, another reliever “will have to step up” in high leverage situations.
“We’ll find out who that is,” Ross said. “Those names can come and go, whoever’s hot and pitching (well). I have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys down there.”
The Cubs bullpen, which was a major concern to start the season, has become a strength for the team this month. Entering play Saturday, it sported the best ERA (1.92) in MLB since Sept. 1, according to FanGraphs.
Although the Cubs are losing Wick, Ross said left-hander Jose Quintana will be activated during next week’s series at Pittsburgh. And Chafin is available in the Cubs’ game against the Twins Saturday.
The Cubs acquired Chafin from the Diamondbacks at the trade deadline. At the time, the left-hander was on the 10-day injured list with a sprained finger on his throwing hand, and he’s been working through a throwing program since shortly after his arrival.
Chafin’s ERA this season (8.10) ballooned in late July when he allowed three runs without recording an out at Texas. But he has limited left-handed batters to a .230 batting average in his career.
“The moment’s not going to get too big for him, I don’t feel like,” Ross said, “So I’m excited to get him out there and see him pitch.”