MESA, Ariz. Ian Stewart felt something last summer while taking batting practice at Dodger Stadium. He tried to play through it, but it got to the point where he couldnt really swing anymore. He went on the disabled list with what was termed a left wrist contusion.
Almost eight months later, Stewart walks around the clubhouse at HoHoKam Stadium with a wrap around his arm thats so big it almost looks like a cast. The new Cubs third baseman says this is just a precaution (and not a huge red flag).
It stinks to say, but Ive kind of got to the point where Ive got some nagging stuff thats probably going to linger for awhile, Stewart said. Thats why I always have heat or ice on my wrist. Thats just a thing thats going to be there. You guys will probably see it a lot. Its just going to be one of those it is what it is-type-things (where youre) just trying to maintain it. But it feels good.
Stewart who hadnt played in a Cactus League game for almost a week because of a quad injury returned to action on Tuesday in Phoenix during a split-squad game against the Oakland As.
To be clear, the Cubs did extensive background work on Stewart before making him the centerpiece of a four-player trade with the Colorado Rockies last December. Manager Dale Sveum downplayed the issue, saying its something you monitor, but dont notice because every batting practice he takes he swings at 100 percent.
But the admission seemed curious for a two-way player the Cubs believe has the power to hit 20-plus homers and play defense at a Gold Glove level. Stewart understands that hes going to have to manage the wrist. The nature of the game and the injury means that you cant expect it to just disappear.
Its a thing thats probably not going to heal during the season, but its not like its broke or anything, Stewart said. Its more like inflammation, just some general soreness. The best chance is in the offseason and even then (we) start working out right when the seasons over.
If I had probably whole year off, then it would be better, but (thats not an option). The wrist hasnt effected my play or being in the lineup at all in spring training, which Im very happy about.
The Cubs have shown a lot of faith in Stewart, believing that he can still be the player Baseball America fell in love with years ago. He will turn 27 on Opening Day and has been given the everyday job.
Stewart has shown flashes of the potential the Rockies saw when they made him the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft. Combined he generated 43 homers and 131 RBI for Colorado in 2009 and 2010.
But knee, hamstring and wrist injuries conspired against Stewart last season. He hit .156 with zero home runs in 48 games with the Rockies and spent a significant amount of time at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Stewart rejected the change of scenery narrative presented by the Cubs front office. The laid-back guy who grew up in Southern California has enough confidence to think that all he needs is an opportunity.
Stewarts not nearly as accomplished as ex-Cub Aramis Ramirez the Opening Day third baseman the past eight seasons but he uses the same calculus: If Im healthy, Ill put up numbers.
I dont think breakout year. I dont think I have to replace anybody, Stewart said. Im just focused on getting healthy. Thats all Im looking forward to just being as productive as I can (once) the season (starts) and maintaining that preparation throughout the year and getting 400 or 500 at-bats.
When I get those at-bats, the numbers have been there in the big leagues.