Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman will be totally inactive for at least a few weeks, as the pitcher himself told reporters including Bruce Levine of 670 The Score. Further details are provided by Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.
Stroman landed on the injured list in early August due to right hip inflammation and he was expected to return earlier this week. He experienced some soreness in his rib cage that was eventually diagnosed as a rib cartilage fracture, preventing him from returning as hoped. No details on his timeline were initially provided and the path forward still seems uncertain, but it appears he will have to be focused on healing for at least a few weeks.
The whole ordeal is obviously quite frustrating for Stroman, who says he still doesn’t know how or when the injury occured. He relays that he threw a bullpen when the club was in Toronto on the weekend and felt a bit “crampy” but nothing terribly unusual. He then took part in some infield practice, a normal thing for him, but then had difficulty breathing after a cool-down period. He flew back to Chicago and went straight to an emergency room, where he eventually underwent an MRI that found the fracture.
Honing in on the diagnosis hasn’t helped much yet. “I can’t be too active,” Stroman said. “It’s not like I can do too much right now. I’ve talked to several doctors and I guess the best thing is it has to kind of heal itself. Hopefully a few weeks. I can’t go anywhere. I can barely turn right now. Breathing is tough at some points, to sit for long periods of time is pretty difficult.”
There’s still plenty of unknowns about how things will progress from here, with Stroman saying he’s taking things one day at a time to see how his body reacts, but it’s fair to wonder if his season is now in jeopardy. Even a limited shutdown period of a couple of weeks would take him into September and would likely require a rehab assignment of some kind at that point, when there will only be about a month left on the schedule. Anything that pushes beyond that would tighten his window even further and perhaps increase the amount of rehabbing necessary.
The Cubs are firmly in the mix of the playoff race in the National League, currently just half a game out of a Wild Card spot. Given how cloudy Stroman’s outlook is, they will likely have to operate under the assumption he may not be back this year. They currently have a rotation of Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Jameson Taillon and Javier Assad in four spots. Manager David Ross indicated that Drew Smyly, recently moved to the bullpen, would likely return to the rotation to replace Stroman. Should another injury arise, the club has Hayden Wesneski, Ben Brown and Caleb Kilian as depth options.
For Stroman, this continues to dampen a season that was previously on track to be one of the best of his career. Through June 20, his earned run average was a tiny 2.28. He then hit a rough patch, allowing 30 earned runs in his next 30 innings, causing his ERA to jump to 3.85 before he landed on the injured list.
When he was at that high point a couple of months ago, he seemed like a lock to trigger his opt-out this winter, leaving behind the one year and $21MM left on his contract. Even with this injury, he would likely still be able to top that guarantee with another multi-year deal, though his earning power will undoubtedly be diminished relative to where it was in June. If the club is able to make a deep postseason push, that would obviously increase his chances of getting back on the mound, but the likelihood of that won’t be known for a while.