Rookie right fielder Jorge Soler’s history of lower-body injuries in the minors was a focus of his spring training preparation and handle-with-care instruction tag heading into April.
Two trips to the disabled list later, Soler is working and hoping to return from an oblique strain before the end of the most relevant Cubs season since teammates Addison Russell and Javy Baez were in middle school.
Beyond that, establishing his place in the Cubs’ powerful young core might be more about proving he can stay on the field than proving he belongs in the majors (.271, 12 homers, 114 career games).
“I’m not ready to label him as accident-prone or injury-prone or whatever,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ll let it just play out. Let’s see how it goes. And as he gains more major league [experience], playing a 162-game schedule, he might be able to stay healthier as he gets older.”
After missing more than a month because of a sprained ankle, Soler is out this time because of an oblique he injured making a pair of throws in back-to-back games Aug. 22-23.
He has played 90 games – four more than last year’s career high. He’s eligible to come off the DL Tuesday in St. Louis but won’t start swinging a bat again until Friday at the earliest.
Neither he nor Maddon were able to suggest a timeline, but Soler seemed optimist this was not a season-ending injury.
“I want to be back before the season ends,” he said in Spanish with the help of coach Franklin Font translating. “I believe I can be back before the season ends.”
Soler’s latest injury was one of the factors in the Cubs’ pursuit of outfielder Austin Jackson, acquired Monday, the final day to be eligible for the postseason roster.
“Losing Jorge at this moment was not very good,” Maddon said, “but I think we’ve done a nice job of trying to fix it up a little bit. And I’m really excited about Austin and what he can do here.”
Soler was becoming a factor in the Cubs’ lineup at the time of the latest injury, hitting .284 in August with two of his seven homers, including one in the game he says he first felt the oblique discomfort on a throw to second.
The Cubs hope he can return in time to be a factor in the fall. After that, they’ll look for a first professional injury-free season from the 6-foot-5 slugger.
“It happens,” Maddon said of the ankle and oblique this time around. “But a lot of times my experience has been guys that maybe, as they’re younger, fall into this trap, as they gain more experience it kind of goes away.”