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Cubs OF Cody Bellinger sidelined by two fractured ribs on his right side

Chicago Cubs v Seattle Mariners

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 12: Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs warms up before an at-bat against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on April 12, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won 4-2. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (AP) — Cody Bellinger has two fractured ribs on his right side, sidelining another key player for the Chicago Cubs.

Bellinger got hurt when he hit the wall in center while trying to make a play on Yainer Diaz’s RBI double in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s 7-2 victory over Houston. He was replaced in the field before the Astros batted in the seventh.

X-rays were negative, and Bellinger downplayed the injury after the win. But he had a CT scan on Wednesday morning that showed the fractures.

“He woke up feeling good,” Chicago manager Craig Counsell said. “He was encouraged how he woke up feeling and he was like, ‘I think I kind of dodged something,’ was his words, actually. And unfortunately it just revealed what’s there.”

Counsell didn’t have a timetable for Bellinger’s return.

“The doctors will come up with a plan,” Counsell said before Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over the Astros, “and, like everything, he’s got to get symptom-free first and we’ll go from there.”

The Cubs put Bellinger on the 10-day injured list and recalled Pete Crow-Armstrong from Triple-A Iowa. The 22-year-old outfielder is considered one of the team’s top prospects, but he hit just .203 (16 for 79) with 24 strikeouts in his first 19 games of the season in the minors.

Bellinger joined fellow outfielder Seiya Suzuki on the IL, along with left-handers Justin Steele (left hamstring) and Drew Smyly (right hip), and right-handers Kyle Hendricks (low back strain) and Julian Merryweather (rib stress fracture).

Even with the injuries, Chicago is off to a 15-9 start. It will try to sweep its three-game set against Houston on Thursday afternoon.

“We have good players here, not only that started the year here, but that’s in our system and a part of this organization,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “We knew coming in that obviously it was going to take more than just the 26 that broke camp, and it’s already being put on full display.”

Suzuki has been out since April 14 because of a right oblique strain. Counsell said he has resumed baseball activities and could be ready to go on a rehab assignment shortly after the team returns from its upcoming seven-game road trip.

The 28-year-old Bellinger hit .307 with 26 homers, 97 RBIs and 20 steals in 2023 in his first season with the Cubs, regaining his form after a couple of down years. He re-signed with Chicago in February for an $80 million, three-year contract.

Bellinger had just started to heat up before the injury. The 2019 NL MVP is batting .333 (10 for 30) with three homers and seven RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.

“When you lose, I think, Seiya, when you lose Cody, players like that, your offense doesn’t improve. You know, it can’t, right?” Counsell said.

“Frankly what your goal is in those situations is to, there’s going to be a little bit of a drop-off, but you hope to minimize it as much as you can. And I do think we’re in that position, to just minimize maybe their absences a little bit.”

It remains to be seen how often Crow-Armstrong plays while Bellinger is out. He entered Wednesday night’s game as a defensive replacement before the start of the eighth inning.

While Crow-Armstrong has struggled at the plate, he could help the Cubs with his defense and baserunning. He made his big league debut last year and went 0 for 14 while appearing in 13 games.

“I know how to play my role a little bit better now,” he said. “I think I have a better understanding of how to be myself as well. So yeah, I’m just coming in again with the same goal in mind and trying to win ballgames.”

The 34-year-old Hendricks was placed on the IL on Tuesday. The right-hander said his back issue popped up during a bullpen session last week and continued through his start on Sunday.

He is 0-3 with a 12.00 ERA through five starts, but he didn’t feel as though the injury was a major factor in his tough opening to the season.

“I got to keep my mindset on the execution and the pitches I’m making there. Can’t use excuses (like) that,” Hendricks said. “But, on the other hand, we just want to give myself a chance to get to 100 percent so I know there aren’t any issues. I’m strictly focused on the pitching.”