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Cubs notes: Hammel out for NLDS? Coghlan, Soler updates

Jason Hammel

PITTSBURGH – The Cubs aren’t ready to say it. But the elbow tightness that sidelined right-hander Jason Hammel for Friday’s final start of the season has suddenly – and ironically – made it less painful to leave the 15-game winner off the playoff roster.

“Always draw your own conclusions, no question,” manager Joe Maddon said, declining, again, to divulge the team’s playoff rotation plans, in part because he said the pitchers haven’t all been told. “I don’t want to jump the gun. Obviously, he’s got a little bit of a problem going on, but, actually, it’s not so bad right now, either.”

Hammel (15-10) on Thursday was scratched from his Friday start because of tightness he had pitched through in recent weeks. He felt good playing catch as recently as Wednesday, and the decision was considered precautionary, with tentative plans to have him throw during the team’s scheduled simulated game Tuesday.

What’s certain is that he finished his regular season with a career-high in victories, a 3.83 ERA in 30 starts and a sense that his more vigorous nutrition and fitness regimen last winter paid off with second-half strength he didn’t have in recent seasons.

“Obviously, I’m not happy with the way things ended, but I would say for nine-tenths of the season it was very good,” he said. “I’ll take that into the offseason and add on to what I added to [last] offseason.”

When Hammel struggled this year, he struggled big – allowing 30 of his earned runs in 15 1/3 innings across four starts against the Mets, Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals. He’s 15-6 with a 2.44 ERA in the 26 other starts – including a 6-0, 0.95 stretch out of the All-Star break.

“Overall, my body feels good,” he said. “I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, which is to be able to make 30-plus starts and be competitive.”

Where he goes from here is the big question, regardless of the elbow issue he said played a role in some of the most recent struggles.

He has a $12 million club option for 2017 ($2 million buyout), and it seems as likely as not he’ll be shopped in a pitching-thin market this winter if the team picks up the option.

His status for the postseason no more certain, regardless how far the Cubs advance. Barring injury involving someone else in the rotation, he was the odd man out of the four-man playoff rotation.

“That’s a decision that lies in their hands,” he said. “Health-wise, I’m not stressing about it. Collectively, we talked about [the shutdown], and it’s just [about] being available through October.”

Coghlan, Soler updates

Outfielder Chris Coghlan, who left Wednesday’s game with a mild ankle spring, said he felt much improved Thursday and hoped to return to action this weekend in Cincinnati.

Jorge Soler (sore right side), rejoined the team after a second MRI in Chicago revealed “no abnormalities,” and the club is just awaiting the young outfielder’s assent that he feels as game ready as the medical indicators suggest.

“I don’t think it’s dire,” said Maddon, who wouldn’t rule out a spot on the playoff roster for Soler even if he doesn’t return by Sunday’s finale. He has just four at-bats since Sept. 16, when he left a game with the soreness.

“You want to test it, but if you test too soon then it could totally take him out of the entire postseason,” Maddon said. “He felt pretty good today from what I was told. It’s just once in a while he feels it in a very, very, very minor way.”

RBI value?

Coghlan said teammate Kris Bryant finally paid him the week’s worth of meal money he promised for Coghlan becoming his 100th RBI of the season Monday.

“But I gave it back to him,” Coghlan said. “I just wanted to make sure he pulled it out. I was like, `Nay, I can’t take it from you man.’ I’m just glad I’m part of the KB history, part of the legacy. I’ll be claiming it for years.”