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Rowan Wick’s absence poses challenge for Cubs as postseason looms

David Ross said the injury is “pretty bad” and that Wick will be gone much longer than 10 days and might not be a part of any playoff run.

The Cubs might have lost Rowan Wick for the season.
AP Photos

Right-hander Rowan Wick has the kind of power arm teams need to get through the postseason.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, his season might be over before the playoffs.

Before the game Saturday against the Twins, Wick was put on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Thursday with a strained left oblique. In a corresponding move, left-hander Andrew Chafin was activated from the 10-day IL.

Manager David Ross said Wick’s injury is “pretty bad” and that he’ll be gone much longer than 10 days and might not be a part of any playoff run.

“Yes, it could [mean that],” Ross said.

If Wick is gone, that would be bad news for the Cubs, who have seen him develop into one of their most trusted late-inning arms over the last two seasons. Wick is 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA and has 20 strikeouts to only six walks in 19 outings. And he has the stuff of a future closer.

He has done some closing (four saves) this season, but regardless of role, he figured to be a prominent part of Ross’ October bullpen.

Wick was acquired from the Padres on Nov. 20, 2018, for infielder Jason Vosler. He made his Cubs debut on May 23, 2019, and by the end of the season had emerged as an important member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.43 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 33⅓ innings. That level carried over to this year.

“[Wick] had been a big part of that bullpen for the second half of last year and then what he’s done for us this year,” Ross said. “He’s been a lock-down guy in any part of the back end of games and throwing really well. Yes, it’s a huge loss.’’

The problem flared up Wednesday, when Wick threw a scoreless inning against the Indians. In the seventh, Ross said he saw Wick trying to stretch his side before he got the last out. Ross recalled that when he was walking off the field, Wick was talking to Willson Contreras about the issue.

Ross said he was going to send him back out to begin the eighth, but Wick said he felt a burning sensation and cramping in his side.

The Cubs’ trainers deemed it unwise for Wick to continue, and Ross agreed.

With Wick gone, the Cubs will try to find another right-handed answer in the bullpen other than veterans Jeremy Jeffress and Craig Kimbrel. That means Duane Underwood Jr., Jason Adam, Ryan Tepera or someone else could get the chance for a bigger role, but it’s clear that Wick’s absence will throw up another hurdle for Ross as he enters his first postseason as a manager.

It also poses a significant challenge to the depth of a relief corps that has found its stride in September.

“Somebody will have to step up; we’ll find out who that is,” Ross said. “Those names can come and go, whoever’s hot pitching. I’ve got a lot of confidence in a lot of guys down there. I’ve definitely, throughout this short season, put guys in different scenarios that I feel like they’ve kind of answered the call and pitched well. It’s just another time. That’s the great thing about baseball: It’s just another opportunity for somebody else to step up and prove they’re a consistent big-leaguer.”