ST. LOUIS – Jason Heyward, the Cubs’ Gold Glove right fielder, has improved quickly enough from his bruised rib-and-hip area that he might return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday’s second game of this week’s series against the Cardinals.
“It’s not impossible,” manager Joe Maddon said after Heyward seemed to fare well in a vigorous pregame workload Monday, including two sessions of batting practice. “Possibly by the end of the series, yes.”
It can’t be too soon for the Cubs, who on Monday night dropped to 0-3 without their No. 2 hitter in the order, who sees enough pitches and remains enough threat even when struggling to impact the top of the lineup.
“If it was up to me I‘d be playing right now,” Heyward said. “I love how I’m feeling.”
Heyward has been sidelined since suffering the injury to his right side during a frightening head-first slide into the wall Friday night in San Francisco after making a spectacular running catch.
The Cubs had looked at Thursday’s scheduled off day as a way to get him extra time to recover if his progress dictated a more cautious approach.
But Heyward said Monday the only lingering issue is a “very dull” pain in the bruised area.
“We’ll see what they say and allow me to do,” said Heyward, who’s targeting a return for the series against his former Cards teammates. “All the games are important, I feel like, and division games, obviously. So I want to play.”
It’s better than even the biggest optimists in the organization would have predicted after Heyward’s crash.
“My first reaction was, `Great catch,’ “ general manager Jed Hoyer said. “My second reaction was, `That looks like a guy that’s going to be out for a while.’
“I think we did dodge a bullet.”
An added benefit to the down time for Heyward is the break it gives his right wrist, which has been a recurring point of irritation since hurting it on a swing in the batting cage the first week of the season. He took a few days off because of it early this month, but the injury hasn’t been serious enough to put him out for an extended stretch.
“That’s going to be annoying either way,” he said. “But it’s nice to catch a little breather with that.”
Lame-duck status quo
Hoyer suggested no imminent movement on a contract extension for team president Theo Epstein and other key front office personnel in the final years of their contracts.
“I think we’re all happy, and we’re in the right place,” said the lame-duck GM. “And we’re confident things will get done.”
Epstein and chairman Tom Ricketts have said repeatedly since the off-season that they’re on the same page and expect to get a deal done without any hangups.
Flyin’ Hawaiian grounded
Shane Victorino, the former All-Star and Gold Glove center fielder the Cubs invited to spring training on a minor-league deal, was released from the organization Monday.
He was 7-for-30 with three walks and three extra-base hits in nine games for AAA Iowa.
“We didn’t have a spot for him,” said Hoyer of a decision that essentially came down to Victorino or Matt Szczur (who was activated from the DL Saturday). “Given his career and the fact that he’s major-league ready, having him sit down there and bid his time didn’t make a lot of sense. He should find a job.”