Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward returned to the roster and the field on Wednesday, as the Cubs activated him off the COVID-19 related injured list.
With Seiya Suzuki (left ring finger sprain) on the IL and rookie Christopher Morel hitting so well and slotting into center field, Heyward started in right field Wednesday.
“I asked him, was he comfortable out there?” Ross said. “And he laughed at me. So, I think he’s good.”
Heyward has won five Gold Gloves as a right fielder. But he moved to center field this year so Suzuki could play in right.
To make room for Heyward on the 40-man roster, the Cubs recalled Manuel Rodriguez from Triple-A and placed him on the 60-day IL with a right elbow strain. To clear a spot on the active roster, they optioned rookie Nelson Velazquez to Triple-A.
Velazquez made his MLB debut Monday and logged a hit in each of the games he played.
“It was awesome to watch him play,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I told him things that stood out to me in his game really early on, and the things I love, and keep working. We’re trying to build a championship-caliber team here with championship players, and I think he can be a big part of that with the way he’s grown.”
Heyward spent about two weeks on the COVID-19 related IL. At first, the Cubs thought he was dealing with the effects of dehydration in Arizona.
“I always hydrate all that kind of stuff,” Heyward said. “[Artificial] turf is a different element, but then I didn’t realize my body was just letting me know, ‘You’ve got something going on right now.’”
He said when he got home that night he took a test, which came back positive. So, he isolated in his basement away from his family. The next day, a set of three tests confirmed his diagnosis.
“That part was tough, of course, not being around a newborn and your wife,” Heyward said.
It paid off. Neither contracted COVID-19.
Smyly to IL
Before Wednesday’s game, the Cubs put left-hander Drew Smyly (right oblique strain) on the 15-day IL, retroactive to Tuesday.
“He’s going to be out a little bit,” Ross said, adding that Smyly feels better than what the imaging suggests. “He’s had a little bit of this before and feels like it it may not be that bad. But we’ll let the trainers do that their job.”
The Cubs also activated reliever Michael Rucker (turf toe) from the 15-day IL.
The streak continues
Cubs rookie Christopher Morel drew an eight-pitch walk in his first at-bat Wednesday, extending his on-base streak to 15 games. The night before he’d set the franchise record for the longest on-base streak to start a career.
“That’s awesome,” Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said when he learned Morel had broken the record Contreras set in 2016. “Morel brings the energy. He brings a lot of things to the table. What I like the most is that he’s never mad, he’s never concerned about anything. That’s one thing that lets him play the way he’s playing right now. He deserves to stay here.”