Outfielder Seiya Suzuki got in one more sun-soaked Wrigley Field workout Wednesday afternoon before heading to the airport.
Suzuki (strained left ring finger) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, the Cubs announced.
“We’ve missed him,” manager David Ross said. “He’s a big part, obviously, of what we’re doing here moving forward, and the more experience he can gain ... the better for us and him, and [it will] speed things up for where we want to go.”
Ross didn’t reveal how many games the team expects Suzuki to need with the I-Cubs before returning from the 10-day injured list, saying they’ll adjust based on daily feedback.
Suzuki has gone through two live batting practice sessions in the past week but hasn’t hit in a game for over a month. Ross said the swelling in Suzuki’s finger, which was a concern the last time he tried to build up his hitting to return, hasn’t come back.
“We’ve got a plan laid out,” Ross said of what the team will be monitoring. “Get some at-bats, his timing down. Just getting back in playing shape I think is what’s important, trying to get his legs underneath him, run the bases, be able to react in the outfield.”
Until Suzuki returns, outfielders Rafael Ortega and Nelson Velazquez likely will continue to get a boost in playing time. Outfielder Jason Heyward has been out of the lineup for the last four games, and the soreness in his right knee hasn’t improved, Ross said.
“We’ll have to take a hard look at that here soon,” he added.
Stroman, Smyly nearing next step
Pitchers Marcus Stroman and Drew Smyly came out of throwing live batting practice Tuesday ready for their next steps. But first, they have regular bullpen sessions scheduled in the coming days.
“Probably no statements until we let them come out of that bullpen,” Ross said, “but I think the next step after that would probably be, get some real competition under their belt.”
Competition likely means rehab assignments to build up their pitch counts. Both threw two innings, over 30 pitches, in the live BP.
“If we bring them back shorter than they should be, we could get in trouble,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told the Sun-Times last week, referencing the 13-pitcher roster limit.
In other injury news …
First baseman Frank Schwindel (lower back strain) is “slowly getting better,” Ross said. Schwindel is expected to resume baseball activities soon. He has been on the 10-day IL for a week and a half.
“Hopefully, things can pick up a little bit of the pace,” Ross said, “but just getting him back in the swing of things yesterday and today, we’ll progress that as tolerated.”
Second baseman Nick Madrigal (left groin strain) hit on the field Wednesday and is building up his running progression, according to the team.
Left-handed reliever Daniel Norris (left index finger sprain) played catch Wednesday.