After their 4-0 loss Sunday to the Brewers, the Cubs have reasons to be worried. And that’s before any discussions about the health of Yu Darvish and Javy Baez.
Darvish was scratched from his turn due to right forearm tightness and replaced by Tyler Chatwood. The Cubs said Darvish had been dealing with the problem for the past month, that the decision to skip him was precautionary, and he’s still fully expected to make his start Saturday against the Brewers.
However, any developments around Darvish and forearm issues are disconcerting at best. His first season with the Cubs was wrecked by arm problems, and forearm troubles can be precursors to serious elbow issues, which Darvish had when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015.
Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Darvish - or any pitcher - having forearm stiffness a day before a start is a “little bit scarier” and makes it more important to take care of now to keep him ready for the rest of the season.
“Forearm can mean different things,” Hottovy said. “It could be muscular. It could be nerve stuff. There’s a lot of things that go on there. But for him, we feel confident that it’s just a muscle issue and hopefully it will get taken care of.”
Darvish has arguably been the Cubs’ best pitcher and a potential Game 1 playoff starter. He has 78 strikeouts and three walks over his past 10 starts, and has started living up to his six-year, $126 million contract.
Meanwhile, on a third-inning stolen base, Baez jammed his left thumb was replaced to begin the seventh. Manager Joe Maddon said the Cubs have been looking for a day to rest Baez, and it could be Monday against Seattle.
“We’ll take it day-by-day,” said Baez, who added X-rays were negative.
Sunday’s loss, punctuated by Christian Yelich’s three-run homer in the ninth off Craig Kimbrel, was the Cubs’ second straight shutout. It also knocked the Cubs 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the division lead, pending the outcome of the Cardinals’ late game Sunday.
“It’s tough, but I’ve been here before,” Maddon said. “I understand the situation. You’re not going to hear me cry about it. We’ve just got to come back and we’ve got to take care of our own business starting again (Monday) and move it forward.”
One day after returning to the lineup, Anthony Rizzo did not start. It was a planned maintenance day, and also to keep him away from Milwaukee starter Gio Gonzalez.
Rizzo pinch-hit for Jonathan Lucroy in the sixth.
Making the calls
The Cubs took advantage of the Sept. 1 roster expansion by recalling Albert Almora Jr., Taylor Davis, Robel Garcia, Alec Mills, Duane Underwood Jr. and Brad Wieck from Class AAA Iowa. Daniel Descalso (left ankle) was activated off the injured list.
Those moves, combined with Saturday’s demotion of David Bote and addition of Zobrist, leave the Cubs’ roster at 32.
Inducted this summer into the Hall of Fame, Lee Smith was honored in a pregame ceremony.
Dignitaries at the ceremony included mayor Lori Lightfoot, Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney. Members of Smith’s family were present, and fellow Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg attended, as did a handful of other former Cubs.