The Cubs have placed starter Drew Smyly on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to May 31, due to a right oblique strain. Chicago reinstated righty Michael Rucker and outfielder Jason Heyward from the IL, optional outfielder Nelson Velazquez to Triple-A Iowa in a corresponding move.
Smyly was pulled from his start against the Brewers on Monday after three innings because of oblique soreness. He’ll now head to the IL with a strain, the severity of which is yet unclear. Oblique strains often require upwards of a month of recovery time, but the grade of the strain will obviously impact how quickly the southpaw will be able to return. The Cubs haven’t yet specified a timetable.
Signed to a one-year, $5.25MM contract shortly after the lockout was lifted, Smyly has made nine starts with the North Siders. He has a solid 3.80 ERA across 42 2/3 innings, although he’s striking out a personal-worst 18.9% of opposing hitters. Smyly has compensated for the fewer punchouts with a career-low 5.6% walk rate, and he’s still generating swinging strikes on a quality 12.2% of his offerings. As he has throughout his career, Smyly has been prone to home runs, but he’s inducing ground-balls at his highest clip (47.8%).
If healthy, Smyly could be a fairly straightforward trade candidate before the August 2 deadline. He’s not going to bring back a franchise-altering return, but as a capable back-of-the-rotation rental on a noncompetitive Cubs team, Smyly would figure to draw interest. That’s contingent, of course, on his returning to health over the coming weeks and reestablishing himself on the mound.
Rucker has been out of action since May 17 with turf toe on his left foot. Heyward, meanwhile, has been down for the same amount of time while battling COVID-19 symptoms. He returns to both the active and 40-man rosters, and the Cubs needed to clear a 40-man spot for his reinstatement. They’ll do so by recalling righty Manuel Rodriguez from the minors and placing him on the big league 60-day IL.
Rodríguez, 25, made his first 20 MLB relief appearances last season. He struggled to a 6.11 ERA but averaged north of 97 MPH on his fastball. Unfortunately, he made just two April appearances with Triple-A Iowa before landing on the minor league injured list. According to Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), he’s dealing with a strain in his throwing elbow.
At the very least, Rodríguez won’t be eligible to return to the majors until August. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be healthy enough to make a late-season return. While he recuperates on the big league IL, Rodríguez will pick up major league service time and be paid at prorated portion of the $700K MLB minimum salary.