Cubs injury: Roster decision looms as Joc Pederson progresses

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Maddie Lee
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Roster decision looms as Pederson progresses originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs left fielder Joc Pederson took another step in his injury rehabilitation process Sunday.

After taking batting practice with the Cubs in Cincinnati early in the three-game series, Pederson (left wrist tendonitis) is scheduled for live BP in South Bend on Sunday. South Bend, home of the Cubs’ Single-A affiliate, served as the Cubs’ alternate training site to start the season. The alt site broke camp recently, with the delayed minor league season opening this week.

Asked if Pederson’s next step was more live BP or activation off the 10-day injured list, Ross left the veteran outfielder’s timetable flexible.

“I think the main thing is to listen to how he comes off this first live BP and then assess from there,” Ross said.

When Pederson does return, the Cubs have several different avenues to open a spot on the active roster. When they placed Pederson on the IL a week and a half ago, they recalled infielder Nico Hoerner from the alternate site. But that doesn’t mean the club will send him back down when they activate Pederson.

Hoerner entered play Sunday hitting .375 with five doubles. He leads the team in batting average and on-base percentage (.487).

“He's a really good baseball player,” Ross said Saturday, after Hoerner went 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. “That's what I love about him. He's always studying and trying to be better. He's got a plan. He's willing to do anything we ask. He’s a really consistent at-bat. I think a lot of us knew who he was. And he’s out to prove something, which is a really powerful thing.”

The Cubs have played with a short bench all season, opting to carry an extra reliever while monitoring their starting pitchers’ innings. The Cubs bullpen has shouldered an even heavier workload than expected, with starters Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies working through command issues.

The club could keep its current roster balance by moving a position player when Pederson returns, which Ross said is an option. But they don’t have to take that route.

In the National League, without a designated hitter, short starts also tax the bench with double switches. Asked if he’s liked having a four-man bench or would rather extend it to five, Ross said it depends.

“If we pitch better, four is plenty,” Ross said. “And if we (keep) getting a little bit shorter outings and having to go to the bullpen a little bit earlier, then five’s a little more comfortable.”

Recently, injuries have shortened the Cubs bench even more. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was out of the lineup for the second straight game Sunday with right thigh tightness. But Ross said Contreras could catch in an emergency.

In the past week, shortstop Javier Báez missed three games with a hamstring strain, and third baseman Kris Bryant got a day of rest to address right biceps irritation.

Wear and tear isn’t exclusive to position players, either. Left-handed reliever Rex Brothers received treatment for a lower body ailment before Sunday’s game, but Ross said he expected Brothers would be available to pitch.

“There are guys daily that have bumps and bruises that you're trying to get through when you're shorthanded, and we're already really short right now,” Ross said. “… So, it's funny how each game things pop up that change, and so, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. But it's just part of it – whenever (Pederson) does come off, we'll have to make a move.”

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