Stroman opts to not pitch in All-Star Game, prioritizing rest

Swanson's status for Midsummer Classic in question due to left heel contusion

July 6th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- Marcus Stroman made it clear how honored he was to be named to the National League All-Star team for his stellar performance in the first half. The Cubs starter has also reiterated a few times over the past couple of weeks that he could benefit from a midseason break.

After the Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Brewers at American Family Field on Thursday, when Stroman made his final start before the regular season’s intermission, his mind had been made. He has no intentions of pitching in the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday, preferring to prioritize his preparation for the second half.

“It’s been a huge process,” Stroman said. “I’m very thankful for everybody who’s helped me get to this point. I’m definitely looking forward to having a little bit of a break -- kind of just reset my energy, clear my mind and have a good second half.”

Stroman was named to the NL’s All-Star team along with shortstop Dansby Swanson and lefty Justin Steele. Swanson -- a two-time All-Star like Stroman -- is also weighing his status for the upcoming All-Star Game due to a pesky left heel issue that flared in Wednesday’s wild 4-3 win.

Swanson lunged and landed awkwardly on first base while trying to avoid a double play and was forced to exit. The veteran had a similar injury with his right heel in 2019 and played it safe by leaving the game. Swanson said he felt improved on Thursday, but the next three days in New York will determine his availability.

“It's something you want to be a part of,” Swanson said of the All-Star Game. “It's not anything that we've really decided on yet, just because I think we knew coming in today I'd probably be a little bit sore and aggravated, and we didn't want to make any rash decisions.

“I think it's something that we definitely will have discussions about over the next day or so.”

Both Stroman and Swanson are critical components in the direction the Cubs take after the All-Star break. The intense four-game series in Milwaukee ended in a split, with the Brewers outscoring the Cubs, 23-22, and it left the North Siders facing an eight-game gap behind the division-leading Reds.

The reality facing the Cubs’ front office right now is that they have to weigh the team’s record (40-46) against the playoff odds, while setting a plan for the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline. There are peripheral numbers that could even out over 162 games and push Chicago up the standings, but holding out hope along those lines could turn the Deadline into a missed opportunity.

“That’s the conundrum,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said this week.

Two of the Cubs’ most attractive trade chips, should the front office determine that selling is the appropriate course, could be Stroman and center fielder Cody Bellinger. Stroman has the ability to opt out of his three-year, $71 million contract after this season, while Bellinger will be eligible for free agency at season’s end.

Stroman was brilliant for the first four innings Thursday before flinching in the form of a four-run fifth. The righty walked four on the day and watched Christian Yelich connect with a sinker at the bottom of the zone for a three-run homer.

“If that's his worst performance of the year, we'll take that every time out,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He's been throwing the ball great.”

In an MLB-high 19 starts this season, Stroman has turned in a 2.96 ERA with a .205 opponents’ average in 112 2/3 innings. He has led baseball in quality starts (14) in a season that began with him ramping things up early to pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

“It’s been a lot,” Stroman said.

Bellinger ended the day a triple shy of the cycle on Thursday, contributing an RBI double and a two-run homer as part of a four-hit performance. He equaled a career high with his 12-game hitting streak, during which he has hit at .467 (21-for-45).

Expect the Cubs to field calls about Bellinger’s availability.

“I definitely know what is possible,” Bellinger said, “but I like being here. I’m focusing on helping this team win while I am here. And hopefully, we can get on a little roll and stay together. We have a really good group here. I still have confidence in the whole group.”

The last four days in Milwaukee did not dramatically alter the Cubs’ position in the standings, but there were positives to how the club rebounded from the recent 1-5 homestand.

“Guys are grinding hard right now and playing with every ounce of energy they've got,” Ross said. “It's standing out.”