'Way better': Bellinger (fractured ribs) ramps up activity

April 28th, 2024

BOSTON -- tossed a baseball lightly in left field at Fenway Park on Sunday evening, and flashed a smile as he continued to play catch. It was a positive step in a day full of them for the Cubs center fielder, who is sidelined due to two fractured ribs on his right side.

Prior to Chicago’s series finale against the Red Sox, Bellinger not only played catch, but did some running and light hitting (tee work and limited soft toss). While there is still no firm timetable for Bellinger’s activation from the 10-day injured list, he was feeling optimistic about his chances of a relatively quick return.

“Even from three days ago, [I’m feeling] way better,” Bellinger said after his pregame workout on Sunday. “I feel like, every day, it seems to get stronger. It’s better when I move.”

Bellinger sustained the injury while attempting to make a catch on Tuesday, when he crashed into Wrigley Field’s brick wall in left-center field against the Astros. The center fielder thought he came away fine, but a CT scan the following day revealed the fractures. The nature of the injury made forming a timetable tricky.

Right now, Bellinger said the approach is to gauge how he feels every morning and map out a program each day based on his feedback from his daily recovery. So far, the process has been positive. Bellinger began moving around more this weekend in Boston, adding non-contact swings to the mix Saturday before upping the activity on Sunday.

“We’re not going game speed by any means yet, but we’ve had some good days,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s how we’re going to treat this injury, and I think that’s what the doctors have told us: ‘Just gradually ramp up activity and see where it gets you.’ As he does that, he’ll kind of tell you what he can do.”

Bellinger noted that he sustained a left rib fracture late in the 2021 season with the Dodgers. In that instance, the outfielder was shelved from Sept. 18-27 before playing in six games at the end of the season. Bellinger then appeared in another 12 games in the postseason for Los Angeles.

On Sunday, Bellinger expressed hope that his comeback schedule could mirror that timeline from three years ago.

“That’s obviously my goal,” Bellinger said.

Counsell was a little more cautious when asked about the possibility that Bellinger could return in a similar timeframe this time.

“I don’t know yet. We haven’t had anything that tells us that that can’t happen right now,” Counsell said. “But I think he also has some intensity to conquer before we get there. And the only difference -- and I’m not trying to disagree with Cody here -- is that [previous injury] was at the end of the season. There were very few games left. And we’ve got a lot of games left and I don’t think playing in a lot of pain is kind of what we want to tackle right now.”