CINCINNATI – All but lost in the late-inning heroics of Kyle Schwarber Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park was a five-inning start by Jason Hammel that figures to be even more significant for what the Cubs plan to do the rest of the season.
Making his first start since suffering a first-inning leg injury July 8, Hammel fought through lingering soreness and an adjustment to a brace he wore – pitching around enough traffic to allow just one earned run.
“There’s still some lingering effect we found out about tonight,” said Hammel, who left his previous start after experiencing a “sharp pain” behind his knee on a pitch.
Using the All-Star break and a shuffle of the rotation, he got 12 days off between starts to rest and get treatment in an effort to avoid having to be skipped in an a rotation that already has depth issue.
“Obviously, it was a steppingstone for me,” he said. “Things definitely weren’t as bad as last time, but we’re still going to keep treating it and make sure we stay on top of the leg.
“There’s still a little bit of soreness there in the calf.”
Hammel (5-4, 2.82) was a major reason the Cubs got off to a good start the first six weeks of the season, and he remains integral to their plans to contend down the stretch.
He said he doesn’t plan to miss a start, and the Cubs said after Tuesday’s game that he’ll swap places in the rotation with Clayton Richard next time through, to remain on a fifth-day schedule – without the extra day others will get because of Thursday’s off day.
He planned to get back in the trainer’s room Wednesday. And it’s unclear how long he’ll have to continue to wear the brace when he pitches.
“The brace didn’t bother me,” he said. “I just had to figure out how to get through it with the mechanics. I’m usually a pretty stiff-front-leg guy. And I just saw it landed softly tonight. It took a few innings to find a release point.”