Báez back as pinch-runner; hitting next?

September 20th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon had to fight the temptation to send star shortstop into Wednesday’s game against the Reds as a surprise pinch-runner, a move that would have had the Wrigley Field faithful roaring.

“He was feeling pretty antsy,” Maddon said on Thursday afternoon.

Báez, cleared to resume light baseball activities after being examined by a hand specialist this week, got his chance in the ninth inning in Thursday night's 5-4 loss to the Cardinals. Báez pinch-ran for Ben Zobrist after Zobrist's one-out double, later scoring the tying run on Jason Heyward's groundout to second base.

Báez, who will wear a protective sliding mitt on his ailing hand when he runs, sustained a hairline fracture in his left thumb on Sept. 1 -- an injury that put him at risk of missing the rest of the season. Báez has resumed light hitting off a tee, and it is possible that his availability for pinch-hitting will arrive before being cleared to play defense.

Maddon indicated that the injury is most bothersome for Báez when catching a ball. He has not resumed any fielding work.

"That seems to be like the part of it that bothers him the most, is just squeezing or closing the glove," Maddon said. "Swinging the bat doesn't bother him nearly as much. That's all in play, but he keeps getting better every day. He keeps feeling better about it every day."

While Báez injured his hand on a head-first stolen-base attempt, Maddon said the shortstop has not been asked to alter the way he slides on the basepaths.

"No," Maddon said. "I just don't think it's that easy to do if you're not used to doing it. You'd be opening him up for more injury right there."

Other injury updates

• Left-hander Cole Hamels has been scratched from Saturday’s scheduled start against the Cardinals due to left shoulder fatigue. Alec Mills will start on Friday, and Jose Quintana will have his start pushed back to Saturday in Hamels’ place.

Maddon would not speculate about when Hamels -- with a 6.55 ERA in his past three starts (11 innings) -- might make his next start. The manager noted that the pitcher had been "trying to hide" that the shoulder had been an issue for a few weeks.

"Any time a guy like that says it's bothering him a bit, you have to absolutely believe it," Maddon said. "So there's always some concern with that. We'll just take his word and what the doctors have to say and try to get him back as quickly as possible. But if Cole says he's hurting, he's hurting, man."

• Righty Brandon Kintzler (left oblique) threw a light 15-pitch bullpen session on Thursday and will aim for a full mound workout on Friday or Saturday. With an off-day Monday, it is possible that the Cubs will wait to make Kintzler available out of the bullpen until Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

• Shortstop Addison Russell was activated from Major League Baseball's seven-day concussion list prior to Thursday's game and was available off the bench.