Cubs Injury News: Mid-April is the 'earliest' Jameson Taillon will return

The veteran right-hander is continuing to work his way back from a lower back injury that's lingered during spring training.

2024 Chicago Cubs Spring Training
2024 Chicago Cubs Spring Training / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

Chicago Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon won't make his 2024 regular season debut until mid-April, 'at the earliest', according to Craig Counsell, via The Athletic (subscription required).

Earlier this week, we learned Counsell is rounding out the starting rotation behind Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks and Shota Imanaga with Jordan Wicks and Javier Assad, slotting Drew Smyly into the bullpen to open the year. The veteran left-hander was far better as a reliever than a starter in 2023, so the hope is he can be the team's go-to swingman early on in 2024.

Of course, we're all waiting now with bated breath on a Steele update after he left his Cactus League start Friday after taking a comebacker off the leg. Hopefully, he'll be ready to take the ball for Opening Day on Thursday in Arlington - but we expect to get an update from Counsell either Saturday or Sunday.

Losing Steele for any significant period would be disastrous for Chicago, unlike the loss of Taillon, which the team seems to have the depth to cover, at least for the short term. Assad has been an unsung hero for the Cubs since making his MLB debut, working to a 3.06 ERA in 147 innings split between the rotation and pen.

Cubs desperately need a return to form from Jameson Taillon in 2024

That's not to say Taillon isn't important because he is. In year two of the four-year, $68 million deal he signed last winter, the veteran and former first-round pick is looking for a huge bounceback campaign after getting off to what amounted to the worst start imaginable last season.

Expect the Cubs to take their time and make sure Taillon is 100 percent before he re-joins the team because they don't need this to be something that lingers and limits his effectiveness once he's back. The plan is for him to throw live BP in the coming days and then ramp up for a minor league rehab assignment hopefully sometime in April.

As the season went on, Taillon settled in and was, more or less, what he's always been on the mound. That's all the Cubs need out of him. What they cannot afford is for him to be a financial deadweight and a complete liability every five days on the mound. Hopefully, taking the time and getting him back to full strength early on helps him become the guy they need him to be this season.