There is undoubtedly a part of Joc Pederson that would love to be activated and back on the field to face the Dodgers in the upcoming series at Wrigley Field. First, the Cubs' outfielder has to check some final boxes in his rehab process.
Prior to Sunday's game against the Reds, Cubs manager David Ross noted that Pederson was back at the South Bend, Ind., alternate training site to face live pitching to test his left wrist. Ross would not commit to activation from the 10-day injured list as Pederson's next step.
"I think the main thing is to listen to how he comes off this first live BP," Ross said. "And then assess from there."
Chicago will welcome the Dodgers, Pederson's old team, to the Friendly Confines for a three-game series beginning Monday night. Following seven years with Los Angeles, Pederson inked a one-year deal as a free agent with the Cubs.
Whenever Pederson comes off the IL, the Cubs may have a tricky roster decision on their hands. The choice will essentially come down to continuing to carry a four-man bench, or to reduce the bullpen to eight arms in order to have an extra position player.
Part of the equation is the fact that the Cubs' rotation has averaged fewer than five innings per game to date. The bullpen, in turn, had logged 110 2/3 innings through 27 games, entering Sunday. Only the Padres (121 innings in 27 games) had carried a larger relief load in the National League.
That could make an extra position player a worthwhile option right now for the Cubs, given the amount of pinch-hitting and double-switching Ross has been forced to do over the first month.
"Once the starters start going a little bit deeper in the games," Ross said, "the bench can be a little bit shorter. I think we've had to go a little earlier to the bullpen than probably expected at times in the first month ... If we pitch better, four's plenty [on the bench].
"And if we still start getting a little bit shorter outings, and having to go to the bullpen a little bit earlier, then five's a little more comfortable."
• Catcher Willson Contreras was out of the starting lineup Sunday for the second game in a row, following tightness in his right thigh flaring in Friday's game. Ross said Contreras' condition was improved, but the team is still putting him through some testing.
"They'll put him through some tests this morning," Ross said Sunday. "I talked to him at breakfast this morning and he seems to be doing OK. His words were he was 'fine.' But, we'll let the trainers check him out."
• Righty Zach Davies only worked four innings Saturday, but there were signs of progress. One example was his sinker, according to pitching coach Tommy Hottovy.
"Everything comes off his sinker command," Hottovy said. "We started to see that sinker actually have some more depth to it, some more sink, and not as much of that run. So, I think the things he's working on and the things were focused on, it's definitely heading in the right direction."
• Ross had no issues with Javier Báez's strong response to Reds reliever Amir Garrett's rambunctious celebration after striking out Anthony Rizzo in the eighth inning Saturday.
"You always love it when guys stick up for one another," Ross said. "I think that's just part of being part of a team, and the history these guys have together. They're not going to stand for a disrespect for one of their teammates."
"I've said this a lot about Kyle in the past: He's as good as it gets feeling through what his delivery is doing. And when he gets locked in, it stays that way for a long time, because he's such a feel pitcher." -- Hottovy, on Kyle Hendricks