Posted on June 29, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Chicago Cubs have lost another member of their starting rotation to injury. With Kyle Hendricks already on the 10-day Injured List, lefty Cole Hamels is about to join him. Hamels strained his left oblique while facing the Reds on Friday. The Cubs don’t have a timeline on the injury yet, but they’re expected to place Hamels on the IL Saturday.
Hamels says he felt what he thought was a cramp while throwing a pitch in the 1st inning of Friday’s game. He did some stretching in between innings in the hope the discomfort would subside. However, after tossing a warmup pitch prior to the 2nd inning, he walked straight off the mound and returned to the team’s clubhouse.
“It was grabbing again,” Hamels explained. “So, I just knew that that’s not always good. You can definitely injure yourself a lot more by trying to play through it.”
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The 35-year-old Hamels missed close to two months of action in 2017 after tearing his right oblique. Based on that experience, Hamels believes this injury is less serious. However, that won’t be known until he undergoes an MRI. Hamels also remembers trying to return too quickly from that injury and struggling the rest of the season due to mechanical issues. He says he won’t make the same mistake this time, which could increase his stay on the IL.
“I want to make sure I come back and everything’s the way it should be, the way that I’m used to doing it and the way I’ve been playing so that I can make a difference,” says Hamels. “Otherwise, it’s a waste. So I think it’s just a matter of really getting the best information from the doctors of the severity of it and then going through the right type of therapies to make sure that I’m good to go.”
While there’s no timeline on Hamels just yet, it’s clear that he’ll be missed by the Cubs. Ever since he was traded to Chicago last July, Hamels has had a mini-renaissance. He posted a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts for the Cubs last season and has continued to pitch at that level this season. In 17 starts this season, Hamels is 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA, the lowest ERA among Chicago’s starters.
With both Hamels and Hendricks out at the same time, the Chicago rotation is missing its two most consistent members. Hendricks will throw a bullpen session on Saturday, as he works his way back from a shoulder issue. But his return to the rotation is not yet imminent, leaving the Cubs with two rotation vacancies until he returns.
The good news is that both Tyler Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay have been added to the rotation since Hendricks went down. Alzolay has impressed in his two outings, but Chatwood has been less effective as a starter in his last two appearances than he was as a reliever earlier this year. Nevertheless, the Cubs will have to lean on him in that role a little while longer.
“We can plug in,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Alzolay and Chatwood. “Guys are stretched out, guys are ready. This time of the year, crazy stuff always seems to happen right before the break and sometimes right after. We are prepared for it. We have the depth to deal with it.”
But even with suitable rotation depth, losing Hamels is a big blow for the Cubs. They currently hold a one-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central with the Cardinals just three games back. In such a tight division race, every start that Hamels misses could end up making a meaningful difference at the end of the season. It also doesn’t help that the Cubs don’t yet know when the veteran will be ready to return.