Chicago Cubs: Jason Hammel’s injury could impact starting rotation

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Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel left Wednesday night’s contest against the St. Louis Cardinals after the first inning with hamstring tightness. MLB.com writer Carrie Muskat reports that Hammel will undergo an MRI evaluation on Thursday to determine if the injury is worse than originally believed. This is bad news for a Chicago Cubs starting rotation that has lacked depth the entire season.

According to Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Gonzales, Hammel experienced a “sharp pain in [the] back of [his] knee” following his second pitch of the ballgame. Hammel finished off the first inning, retiring the St. Louis Cardinals’ hitters in order. However, he didn’t return to the game in the second inning. 

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The Chicago Cubs failed to hold a late-inning lead and ultimately fell to the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 on Wednesday night. A full recap of the game can be read here.

Hammel is 5-4 this season and has accumulated an ERA of 2.89 in 16 appearances. Aside from Jake Arrieta, statistically Jason Hammel has been the Chicago Cubs best pitcher this season.

If Jason Hammel is seriously injured this will be a significant loss for an already depleted Chicago Cubs starting rotation. Hammel isn’t the only Chicago Cubs starting pitcher that is currently battling an injury.

Tsuyoshi Wada left a July 22nd game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third inning because of cramping in his left deltoid muscle. According to Chicago Tribune writer Mark Gonzales, the Cubs placed Wada on the 15-day disabled list on June 28.

Wada made his minor league rehabilitation assignment debut on Monday with the Cubs Double-A affiliate. He surrendered four runs on eight hits in four innings of work.

Wada’s injury created serious depth issues in the back-end of the Cubs starting rotation. If Hammel’s hamstring issue is serious, it will be devastating for a pitching staff already lacking in quality depth.

The Cubs have a number of options to fill these rotational spots, however; none of these pitchers has consistently pitched well enough to earn a long-term spot on a team that is in playoff contention.

The Chicago Cubs acquired Clayton Richard from the Pittsburgh Pirates to solve their depth issues in the starting rotation. In his Cubs debut, he gave up two runs on eight hits to help lead the Chicago Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the Miami Marlins.

However, the script reversed in the Chicago Cubs loss Wednesday night against the Cardinals. In three innings of work, he gave up four runs on seven hits in relief of Jason Hammel who existed because of injury after the first inning.

On Tuesday against the Cardinals, Dallas Beeler made his 2015 debut with the Cubs, tossing five innings of two-run baseball. Beeler has made three Major Leagues starts in his career.

At 26-years-old, he is still trying to earn a long-term position on a Major League roster. If the Cubs continue to have injury problems, Beeler will get more opportunities. The jury is still out on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Donn Roach, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson are more far-fetched options to eat up starts should the Cubs rotation continue to struggle with injuries. The Cubs optioned Roach to Triple-A Iowa after giving up four runs on June 27 against the Cardinals. The latter two names are former starting pitchers that moved to bullpen roles because neither was cutting it as a starter.

They are short on reliable pitching options beyond their top four starters (Arrieta, Hammel, Lester, Hendricks). As the Cubs continue to try to fill holes with temporary solutions, an overarching question emerges.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer need to add starting pitching to take the next step in their journey towards a World Series Championship. How soon will they do this and who are they willing to part ways with to acquire more pitching?

In the meantime, let’s hope that Jason Hammel’s injury is minor. This team needs him.

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