The Chicago Cubs came into this season as a team without a ton of quality depth on the surface. While players like Eric Sogard, David Bote and Jake Marisnick all had a good spring training, it was hard to see all of them as key contributors. Pitching was far more frightening coming in, though, losing most of their rotation to free agency or trades and relying on a mix-and-match bullpen approach.
Well, recent injuries have been stretching this team even thinner than they already were. It all began with injuries to Joc Pederson and Austin Romine that necessitated the return of Nico Hoerner and the signing of Tony Wolters. On May 4 though, the team added another three players, including Hoerner, to the IL in its latest string of losses, marking a continued plague of injuries early on this season.
Early season injuries are testing the Chicago Cubs’ depth.
Position player injuries were highlighted in Sunday’s game against the Reds. After a scary collision between Ian Happ and Hoerner, Happ was taken out of the game on a cart and is day-to-day with rib contusions, Hoerner injured his forearm, and Willson Contreras, who was already sitting due to mild injury of his own, was forced into the game as the last Cubs bench player. It wasn’t pretty, but for what it’s worth, the team weathered it well given their versatility.
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That versatility has been their key to managing injuries to their position players. The success of Matt Duffy and Sogard allowed Kris Bryant to cover left field in Pederson’s absence and even Wolters showed off his flexibility by manning second after Happ’s injury forced Hoerner into the outfield. It has been one of the team’s major bright spots early on and a massive boon in the event of more injuries.
On the pitching end, the swathe of injuries so far has been especially tough for a bullpen that threw the fourth most innings out of any staff in baseball in April. Currently, the team’s most reliable starter thus far, Jake Arrieta, is on the IL with a thumb injury along with one of their most productive relievers in Dan Winkler and a handful of other depth arms. This has resulted in some early opportunities for guys like Keegan Thompson who shined in his emergency start against the Dodgers on Tuesday.
Still, reinforcements are running thin. Trevor Megill and Pedro Strop, two of the ‘pen’s most promising reserves, are out of the picture for the time being, leaving little option but to stick with the current core and hope nobody else goes down. The loss of another starter would be devastating right now given the lack of depth pieces past Alec Mills at the moment.
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So far, the team has seemed relatively unaffected by the constant losses, but the depth is getting stretched to its limits. It’s another major point of stress on a Cubs team that has struggled immensely so far that could come back to bite them before long. Here’s hoping this trend isn’t a reoccurring problem throughout the season.