Hamels' MRI results give Cubs 'good news'

July 3rd, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- The results of ’ MRI, which was conducted Monday, were read on Tuesday, and the Cubs believe they have skirted any severe concerns.

The exam confirmed a strain in Hamels’ left oblique muscle, an injury he sustained in his start on Friday at Cincinnati, but the results didn’t point to anything foreboding.

“It’s not awful,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s one of those things that we’re encouraged by the results.”

There’s currently no timetable set for Hamels’ return, though he’s expected to undergo treatment through the All-Star break before the club evaluates his potential for a rehab outing. But all signs are pointing toward a relatively speedy recovery, one aided by the four-day break in regular-season action.

“He’s feeling a lot better, quicker than we anticipated,” Maddon said. “The results were not overtly negative in any way, so it was all good news.

“I think he’ll start throwing relatively soon, and then see what he feels like, but then again, you still have to build him back up.”

Hamels sustained an oblique injury on his right side in 2017, when he pitched for the Rangers. At the time, Hamels felt like he’d been “shot,” while after Friday’s game he described this sensation as more of a “grabbing.”

Maddon made no mistake after Monday’s 18-5 loss about his desire to have Hamels back in the rotation, saying, “We need Cole to make the whole thing work properly.” The left-hander has been the most effective rotation piece for the Cubs, pitching to a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts since he was acquired by Chicago on July 27 of last year.

Cubs make roster moves

As expected, the Cubs activated off the 10-day injured list to make his scheduled start in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Pirates, and he went three innings, allowing two runs with four strikeouts. But they also reached for bullpen help after a long day on the mound Monday.

was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to aid that effort. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, the left-hander has recorded a 2.25 ERA across 20 innings. But after a strong 2018 Major League campaign (3.66 ERA in 44 games), he’s allowed six runs (five earned) in seven innings for the Cubs this season. Rosario was immediately thrust into action, pitching a flawless eighth inning on Tuesday.

In corresponding moves, the club optioned pitchers Adbert Alzolay and Rowan Wick. Alzolay’s move was anticipated, as he will compete in the 2019 Futures Game on Sunday. Wick threw in both Sunday’s and Monday’s losses, going 3 1/3 innings combined and allowing three runs (two earned).

Setting the course

Ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Pirates, the Cubs had a midseason meeting to assess areas of improvement entering the second half of the season. Though recent struggles in a tight division have led to inquiry about the team’s willingness to buy vs. sell at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Maddon didn’t want to simply harp on where to improve.

“When you want to tell people what you’re seeing or what you think is wrong, then you have to come up with some solutions, too,” Maddon said. “It’s easy to say to everybody, ‘Hey, you’re doing this wrong. Let’s go.’ You’ve got to absolutely give them some direction.

“That’s the best way I can describe it. It wasn’t statistical, either. I wasn’t talking numbers and cutoffs and relays and more batting practice -- I wasn’t talking about that at all. I was talking about some concepts that I think are important that we may have gotten away from, that I want to get us back into.”

Worth noting

• Of the Cubs’ 2019 Draft class, one of the later choices has gotten off to the hottest start.

Zac Taylor, an outfielder whom the club selected in the 25th round, leads all 2019 draftees across baseball in homers this year. The University of Illinois product has slugged five in his first 36 at-bats.

• The Cubs have reportedly signed three of the Top 30 international prospects, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, on the first day of the international signing period. The club has not confirmed the signings.

The reported signees are catcher Ronnier Quintero (No. 6), shortstop Kevin Made (No. 11) and catcher Brayan Altuve (No. 30). The Cubs have had success over the past decade with international catching prospects signed on July 2; notably, Willson Contreras (2009) and Miguel Amaya ('15), the organization’s No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, were signed on the first day.