ST. LOUIS - The Cubs will be without Javy Baez for at least the start of Saturday's game as he continues to be plagued by a right heel issue suffered nearly two weeks ago during a game in Washington D.C.
Baez was initially in the Cubs lineup for Saturday's tilt against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, but was scratched roughly 90 minutes before first pitch.
"For him to say something, it had to be pretty sore," manager Joe Maddon said. "I don't know [how long he'll be out]. I was just ready to come out on the field and he came and talked to me. Definitely a day-by-day situation."
The concern with the heel issue is not only that it hasn't gone away in two weeks, but that it is acting up just one game after the Cubs had an off-day and spent the entire week working to get Baez back to 100 percent health.
During the series in Houston, Baez served as the Cubs' designated hitter in the first two games, which helped keep him off his feet while still maintaining his offensive presence in the lineup. Then he played third base for the series finale Wednesday in an effort to limit his movement in the field, as the hot corner is not as physically demanding as shortstop.
The Cubs then had a day off Thursday before Friday night's game, when Baez played all 10 innings at shortstop.
The lingering injury comes at a bad time for Baez and the Cubs, as they have just one day off between Friday and July 5, playing 34 games in 35 days in that span. So there won't be much opportunity for rest unless he continues to miss game action.
"It has [lingered]," Maddon said. "When he's feeling good again, we might have to figure out a way also again to put him in a spot he doesn't have to move as much and see how that plays out. You know him - if he's gonna say something, it's bothering him decently right now."
The injury flares up for Baez mostly when he's on defense, moving laterally at shortstop and working around the second base bag on double plays and force plays. That's why third base was a better option for him and with Addison Russell on the active roster now to play shortstop, Maddon was alluding to the possibility of Baez eventually returning to the lineup, but maybe not at shortstop.
Russell was initially given the day off Saturday, but inserted into the lineup to play shortstop with Baez's departure. David Bote remains as third in line on the shortstop depth chart.
"[Movement] is cut down [at third base], plus he doesn't have to hit the bag as much like working through the bag and turning double plays," Maddon said. "Maybe that's where he kinda tweaked it after it was starting to feel better. After a double play ball, he kinda kicked the bag funny and that kinda reaggravated it.
"Just see what happens - talk to the trainers, talk to him and then create a gameplan coming out of it."
The Cubs have dropped six of their last eight games and absolutely don't want to go any extended length of time without one of their best players. But Baez has also been scuffling since he suffered the injury - hitting only .222 with a .717 OPS and striking out in half his at-bats (18-of-36) - though Maddon insisted the heel issue hasn't had much of an impact on the offensive part of Baez’s game.
Before Saturday's game, it was unknown whether Baez would be available to pinch-hit, like he did a couple days after suffering the initial injury - delivering the walk-off blow to the Phillies on May 21 at Wrigley Field.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.