Cubs keep up winning ways after putting Bellinger (rib fracture) on IL

Top prospect Crow-Armstrong back in Majors

April 25th, 2024

CHICAGO – Cubs center fielder was feeling positive on Tuesday night when X-rays on his right side came back negative for anything alarming after he ran into Wrigley Field's brick wall trying to make a catch. He even maintained his sense of humor after departing the game early.

“We’re gonna have to check on the wall,” Bellinger quipped.

The situation changed on Wednesday, when a CT scan revealed that Bellinger had actually sustained two fractured ribs on the play in question. Cubs manager Craig Counsell announced before Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Astros that Bellinger would be placed on the 10-day injured list and the club's top prospect, center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, would be promoted from Triple-A Iowa.

It was the latest blow for a Cubs outfield that is already without slugger (right oblique strain) and only recently had left fielder return to the lineup following a recurrence of a left hamstring issue that dates back to Spring Training. Suzuki has progressed to baseball activities, but Bellinger’s comeback schedule is less clear at the moment.

“I don't really have a timetable for you,” Counsell said. “The doctors will come up with a plan and, like everything, he's gotta get symptom-free first and then we'll go from there.”

Bellinger was injured in the top of the fourth inning of Tuesday night's 7-2 victory over the Astros when he crashed into the brick outfield wall at Wrigley while trying to make a play on a deep fly off the bat of Yainer Díaz. The 28-year-old former MVP, who had homered in the first inning, stayed in the game and popped out in the fifth, then exited before taking the field in the top of the seventh.

He was originally diagnosed with a right rib contusion, but the follow-up testing revealed the rib fractures. After the game, Bellinger said he was experiencing a “dull pain” that flared mostly when breathing in deeply. He felt fine while rotating and was optimistic that he had avoided a serious setback.

“I’m actually happy with where I’m at right now post-adrenaline wearing off,” Bellinger said Tuesday night. “I’m in a good spot right now, it feels. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to wake up, see how I feel and go from there.”

The CT scan on Wednesday morning came as a surprise.

“He woke up feeling good,” Counsell said. “He was encouraged by how he woke up feeling. He was like, ‘I think I kind of dodged something,’ was his words, actually. Unfortunately, it just revealed what’s there. He’s bummed out, for sure.”

Following a slow start to the season, Bellinger was heating up at the plate. His homer Tuesday extended his hitting streak to eight games and marked his third blast in his previous five games. Overall this season, the outfielder was batting .226 with five homers, 17 RBIs and 11 walks in 22 games.

Crow-Armstrong, the No. 15 prospect in MLB, earned his first promotion to the Cubs down the stretch last year, following a standout showing down on the farm. He went 0-for-14 in a 13-game stint with Chicago down the stretch.

To open this season, Crow-Armstrong has put up a .203/.241/.392 slash line through 79 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa. He's stolen five bases on the season, and his speed combined with his instincts makes the 22-year-old one of the best defensive players in the Minors.

“The results have not been great,” Counsell said of Crow-Armstrong’s first month at Triple-A. “This is a spot where Pete can do things to help you win baseball games, and that’s not just hitting. That’s what we’re going to look at.

“And understand that he’s still going to get plate appearances, he’s going to get starts and he’s got a chance to do something good in all those.”

Happ is holding down left field, but the rest of the outfield will likely be a rotation of players for now. Mike Tauchman and Crow-Armstrong will be mixed and matched in center, while Alexander Canario can play all three spots. Patrick Wisdom can also help in the corners, if needed.

“We just need guys to step up over the next couple weeks,” Counsell said. “Nobody wants to get hurt -- nobody is trying. [Bellinger] ran into the wall. He's gonna miss a little bit of time. We've got to keep going.”