Kris Bryant will likely miss the first two games of this weekend's series against the St. Louis Cardinals and could miss the whole three-game set, according to Joe Maddon.
The Cubs manager said the reigning National League MVP will be sidelined as he recovers from a sore finger, injured when he slid head first into third base in the first inning of Wednesday's series-finale against the Atlanta Braves down in Georgia.
"He's just not ready today, but we're going to do this (as) a day-by-day thing," Maddon said. "I really don't know. If I had to guess, probably not tomorrow, too. And possibly on Sunday, but I really don't know.
"He healed well with the ankle, we did not expect that to come back very quickly and it did. So I'm just trying to not jump to conclusions right now."
"It's sore. It's just a soreness and he's got to grip the bat, and that's what it really comes down to."
The Cubs have suddenly closed within a game of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers after winning the first six games out of the All-Star break. Certainly losing Bryant for any time, no matter how brief, is a blow to the Cubs' lineup — and their rampage up the NL Central standings — but things could be way worse. A day-to-day situation is preferable to Bryant and his .401 on-base percentage heading for a lengthy stay on the disabled list.
Bryant's absence Friday meant right fielder Jason Heyward was at the top of the Cubs' lineup. It's just the third time Heyward has started in the leadoff spot since joining the Cubs. He was 0-for-7 in those two starts in June of last year.
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In addition to Bryant, there was an update of sorts on injured starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who could return to the rotation next week, per Maddon.
"More than likely next week, probably early next week. We're looking at that, but we're really not ready to make any other kinds of conclusions or announcements yet," Maddon said. "He's there. He's ready to rock n roll."
Hendricks' return to the rotation will be another shot in the arm for a starting staff that just received a huge upgrade in the form of Jose Quintana. Hendricks has been on the disabled list since June 8, when he went on the shelf with tendinitis in his right hand.
Hendricks logged 8.1 innings in two rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee recently, going 15 up, 15 down in his second outing. It sounds like he'll pitch in one of the four games against the White Sox next week.
Adding Hendricks and Quintana to a rotation featuring Jon Lester and an improving Jake Arrieta figures to make for a far different starting-pitching picture in the second half of the season following an inconsistent first half.
It's been a little more than a week since the Cubs altered the state of their pitching staff for years to come with that blockbuster crosstown swap that brought Jose Quintana to the North Side.
But are the Cubs looking to make another massive upgrade to their starting rotation before the trade deadline?
According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, the Cubs are interested in Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish.
Now it might not make too much sense at first blush for the Cubs, who dealt away their top two minor leaguers in the trade for Quintana, to acquire another frontline starting pitcher, especially one who unlike Quintana will become a free agent at the end of the season. After all, if the Cubs do want Darvish in the long term, they can wait a few months and go after him in free agency, losing no assets but money in the process.
The Cubs' rotation, once Kyle Hendricks returns from the disabled list, also looks pretty set with Jon Lester, Quintana, Jake Arrieta, Hendricks and John Lackey the presumed quintet for the remainder of the regular season, barring any other injuries of course.
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But Morosi makes some points, even if they might be speculative ones, that make a trade for Darvish seem not so ridiculous. After all, the Cubs did so much for their future in acquiring Quintana that a rental like Darvish to power a second straight run to the World Series might not seem so risky.
And while the Cubs' rotation is looking good right now with the team winners of six straight since the All-Star break, it was perhaps the team's biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half. Arrieta and Hendricks both failed to replicate the consistency that made them two of baseball's best last season. And Lackey has struggled mightily, still the owner of 5.04 ERA and a guy who's given up the 25 homers, the second most in baseball.
If the National League Central race remains as tight as it is entering play today, with four teams within four and a half games of each other, perhaps adding an extra dominant starter would assure the top spot in the division, which could be the team's only path to the playoffs. Even after a six-game winning streak to start the second half, the Cubs are five and a half games back of the Colorado Rockies for the NL's second wild card spot.
There's no doubt Darvish has been very good this season for the Rangers, with a 3.45 ERA in 20 starts and 131 strikeouts in 125.1 innings pitched. He's a four-time All Star in his five-year major league career. Adding that to Lester and Quintana at the front of the rotation would make the Cubs a terrifying force for opposing teams.
But at the same time, what would it take to get him? Giving up zero major league talent was part of what made the Quintana trade so terrific for the Cubs. Losing a major league player would perhaps hurt the team's chances at a World Series win this season, which would be the whole point of acquiring Darvish in the first place.
It's trade season, so let the rumors keep flying.