Cubs face a real test next week due to doubleheaders, injuries

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Even at full strength, the Cubs would face a steep challenge with their schedule.

Alec Mills took the ball on short notice Friday, filling in for Tyler Chatwood, who was battling some back issues. Early Saturday, the Cubs announced Colin Rea as their starter – meaning the earliest Chatwood will get the ball would be Monday.

Late in Friday’s 4-3 loss to Milwaukee, David Ross pinch-hit with Josh Phegley rather than Kris Bryant, who continues to battle wrist and hand injuries, against Josh Hader. The result? Well, I don’t really need to tell you how that battle went. After the game, Ross admitted Bryant was ‘down,’ – casting further doubt on his health.

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So as if those two items weren’t troubling enough, the Cubs play nine games in the next week – with a pair of doubleheaders against St. Louis. Remember, those will be seven-inning games, but Chicago still has to put out a quality product. The only plus? Both of those doubleheaders will be held at Wrigley Field.

Playing that much in such a short span can be difficult even under the best circumstances. Look at the debacle last year with the Cubs at a dead sprint for the last month-plus of the year. They looked run down and faded hard down the stretch. Obviously, this season is drastically shorter, but setting up the rotation and filling out the lineup card could get a bit more challenging for Ross.

As I’m writing this, we haven’t seen Saturday’s lineup just yet. But even if Bryant is in it, you have to have some real doubts about whether or not he’s 100 percent. He’s battled an elbow issue, a stomach bug and now this wrist/hand injury that came when he attempted to make a diving play in left field earlier in the week.

On the year, Bryant is yet to figure it out offensively. Pitchers have attacked him with more breaking balls in 2020 – and the results speak for themselves: a .133/.142/.200 line against those pitches. It’s not like he’s crushing the fastball either, and Ross has been forced to figure out ways to jump start the offense.

Assuming Chatwood’s back flare-up calms down over the weekend, the Cubs should be alright. If not, I’d assume we’ll see Rea get more than one start, probably in one of those doubleheaders. Don’t forget, either. Jose Quintana is working his way back from injury and could eat some innings this week, as well.

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Chicago enters the weekend at 13-4, which works out to the best winning percentage in the league. They carry a 5 1/2-game lead in the division, as well. But with two more against Milwaukee, then five against St. Louis in a three-day span, the NL Central picture could look much different come the team’s next off-day on Thursday.