This isn’t going to be my look at the 40-man roster crunch which the Cubs will have after the 2023 season ends, given a fair number of players they will want to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. That’ll come after the season is over.
Rather, this article will look at several players currently on the injured list who the Cubs either will want back, or might want a look at for the rest of the 2022 season.
All but one of those players is listed at this cubs.com article — the one exception is Adbert Alzolay, who also could be ready for return soon.
So, let’s look at them one by one.
You never want to see a season ended this way, but Ortega being hit by a Jacob deGrom pitch while attempting to bunt Tuesday will put him out for the rest of 2022, and potentially end his Cubs career.
This is the roster move that might happen later today:
Jared Young is a late scratch from today’s Triple-A Iowa lineup, as @TommyBirch noted, and in position to potentially make his major-league debut in New York now that Cubs outfielder Rafael Ortega is out for the rest of the season with a broken left ring finger.— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) September 14, 2022
It was noted during the broadcast Tuesday that Contreras might be ready to be activated when he’s eligible, on Friday. At that point Alfonso Rivas could be optioned, since with Jared Young on the roster (Young can also play 1B), Rivas might not be needed. Or, Nelson Velázquez could be optioned to Iowa so he could play every day — which he’s not doing anymore in Chicago.
Madrigal suffered a right groin strain during Saturday’s game. The last groin strain he suffered had him missing two months. Here’s what he said Sunday:
“I’d love to get back,” Madrigal said. “I feel like I’ve still got things to prove and want to prove. But I know there’s another side of it about being smarter and there’s no reason to really [push it]. If it’s not feeling right, I’m probably not going to get in there. So, I would love to, but we’re just going to have to see how it goes.”
Given that, I suspect Madrigal’s not going to be back this year, especially since the Cubs would probably like to see more of Zach McKinstry.
Brault has a left shoulder strain. He pitched reasonably well when active (nine innings, three earned runs, all the ER coming in one appearance), but all he’s done since his IL placement is “a light mound session.” I think Brault is also likely done for the year.
The article targets “late September” for a return for Steele, who is out with lower back tightness. He is “playing catch,” per the article, and that seems a long way from a rehab assignment, which he probably needs. Remember that Iowa’s season goes through the end of September, so the team can do that if needed.
Steele’s 119 innings are by far a career high. It’s likely best for the Cubs to shut him down for the year.
Thompson is headed for a rehab start Friday, location not known yet (probably Iowa, I’d think). He’s also been out with lower back tightness since August 19. I’d think he’ll need at least two rehab starts before a return. The Cubs could option Erich Uelmen, Mark Leiter Jr. or Jeremiah Estrada to Iowa to make room for a Thompson return.
The article doesn’t mention Alzolay, who has made five rehab starts between the AZ Complex League Cubs and Triple-A Iowa, posting a 5.84 ERA and 1.541 WHIP, with 16 strikeouts in 12⅓ innings. The most recent of those outings was Sunday.
As with Thompson, either Uelmen, Leiter or Estrada could be optioned. I’m guessing Estrada is in Chicago for the rest of the year and the first two above would be the pitchers sent to Iowa for these two activations.
Pitchers can have up to 30 days on rehab assignment, and as of today Alzolay has been on rehab assignment for 24 days. They might want him to make one more start before returning, but I hope the Cubs have stopped thinking about Alzolay as a starter at the MLB level. Every time he comes to the Cubs rotation, he gets hurt. That stuff would play real well in the bullpen and I think Alzolay is a potential future closer. That’s how I’d like to see him used if he’s activated.
The article also mentions Nico Hoerner being out since Sunday’s game with triceps tightness, day-to-day. It was hinted on the broadcast that he might be able to play Wednesday, and almost certainly he’ll be back Friday and not require an IL stint.
When Adbert Alzolay returns to the Cubs, he should be...
... a regular rotation starter
... a long reliever who makes spot starts
... a closer
Something else (leave in comments)