Rest is both Marcus Stroman’s friend and enemy right now.
The schedule is working against Stroman and any hopes the Chicago Cubs right-hander will get back on the mound in the near future. Stroman on Friday spoke for the first time since the Cubs announced his right rib cartilage fracture diagnosis Tuesday. He has been prescribed rest and can’t be too active as he heals.
Stroman described barely being able to turn his body and struggling to breathe at some points. Even sleeping or sitting for long periods of time is difficult because of the fracture. But just as President Jed Hoyer expressed Wednesday uncertainty about what caused the injury, Stroman did not have any insight either Friday as to the source of the rib cartilage fracture.
Stroman met with reporters in the Wrigley Field press box during the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals to discuss the injury.
“I mean, I don’t have an answer, man,” Stroman said. “I don’t have any answers as far as how I got it.”
During Stroman’s absence that will be measured in weeks, not days, the Cubs need more collectively from their rotation. Stroman’s 9.00 ERA over his previous seven starts led up to landing on the injured list because of right hip inflammation. He showed in the first half he’s capable of single-handedly winning games for the Cubs en route to posting a 2.28 ERA in his first 16 starts.
Stroman had been lined up to return from his original injury Wednesday against the White Sox, forcing an adjustment to the rotation. Right-hander Jameson Taillon started Friday’s series opener against the Royals, owners of the second-worst record in the majors. He bounced back from a bad outing in Toronto with a quality start in Friday’s loss, allowing four runs (two earned) in six innings. The Cubs (62-59) couldn’t cash in on 10 hits and five walks, leaving 10 runners on base.
Taillon’s experience and big-league track record make him the type of starter capable of stepping in to deliver the caliber of outings the Cubs saw from a healthy Stroman.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to reset my year, like, my numbers aren’t going to get to where they need to be or where I’m used to and that’s OK,” Taillon said Friday. “All that matters is putting us in a position to win every fifth day going forward. And so yeah, I have an opportunity in front of me to step up and prove why they went got me.”
Without being able to count on Stroman returning, the starting pitching depth will be tested internally, led by right-handers Javier Assad and Hayden Wesneski and lefty Drew Smyly.
“You go into every year in spring training thinking you’re going to need a ton of depth, and this team that breaks isn’t going to be the team that ends with the team,” Taillon said. “But I’ve probably never been a part of a team where it’s mattered more than this year just like quality innings across the board, people stepping up left and right, guys go on hot streaks, someone like me has had a bad streak, other guys stepped up and took the pressure off of me. It’s definitely important to have that depth.”
Stroman said he experienced a little crampy feeling during his bullpen Sunday in Toronto. Afterward, he took ground balls as he often does pregame, joining in at second base alongside Christopher Morel and Patrick Wisdom, who were getting grounders at third and first base, respectively. Stroman threw a couple of balls to Wisdom during the group’s infield work.
Once he cooled down, Stroman said it felt hard to breathe in his diaphragm and rib-cage area, leading to the trainers checking him out. They thought he might be experiencing a problem with his appendix or gallbladder, according to Stroman, who added that he got the OK to fly home on the team charter from Toronto.
Stroman said he went straight to an emergency room once the flight landed in Chicago to rule out his gallbladder or an appendicitis. When he woke up Monday morning, he had an MRI, which revealed the rib cartilage fracture.
“It’s got to heal itself and it’s hopefully a few weeks, like, I can’t go anywhere,” Stroman said.
“I’m still trying to process it, honestly.”
As for whether he could return by the time the Cubs’ end the regular season Oct. 1, Stroman replied: “I‘m taking it day by day truly, not even looking past tomorrow.” He didn’t want to speculate on a best-case scenario. But at this point, any innings the Cubs get from Stroman should be considered a bonus.
Stroman was told by doctors his injury is rare among baseball players, which adds to the challenges of trying to pinpoint an exact time frame for his return. Once he is cleared, Stroman must rebuild his workload, and all the time needed to complete the steps within that process adds up.
“I‘m not someone who’s going to sit here and be very negative or want anyone to feel sorry for myself,” Stroman said. “I’m going to do everything I can to be proactive and to get back as soon as I can because I feel like that’s all in my control.”
Stroman indicated he won’t be with the Cubs on the road as he recovers. He hasn’t figured out yet whether he will stay in Chicago to heal and recover or go elsewhere, such as the team’s complex in Arizona.
“There’s not much I can be doing right now to contribute … and I’ve never been a big proponent of guys being there that aren’t going to contribute directly and can help the squad,” Stroman said. “I don’t want to take away from everything we have going on right now so hopefully I can get it right and then come back, hopefully at some point and we’re in a playoff push and hopefully I can contribute. I’m just taking it day by day.
“I don’t want to take away from anything we have going on here because we’ve been playing incredibly well. Everyone’s in a great space so I want to make sure everyone stays in a great space and continues to do their thing.”
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