The MLB regular season is nearing its completion and teams have spent a great amount of time perfecting their lineups as they vie for position in the stretch run toward the pennant.
As the virtual game of chess continues and clubs look for the best way to advance, many of them are forced to make changes in order to compensate for lower performances or unforeseen injuries that are impacting their ability to put the runs on the scoreboard. The race is far from over, though, and several teams are hopeful that their stars will be able to return to the diamond before long.
The Chicago Cubs were forced to give up on All-Star shortstop Javier Baez after he fractured his left thumb earlier this month. In the most recent update on his condition, he will most likely be out for the rest of the month, but the Cubs are optimistic that he will be able to put his glove back on sometime in October. That would be good news for the team, as it started the series opener in San Diego on Monday in the second Wild Card slot in the National League.
Baez’s backup, Addison Russell, was meant to pick up the slack, despite what could only be described as a lackluster performance on the field this season — and an embarrassing performance off the field — but is now dealing with health issues of his own. He caught a 94MPH fastball to the face on Sunday during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers and most likely won’t be coming back soon.
The Cubs are hoping that some outside help will give the entire squad some additional enthusiasm and energy. Nico Hoerner could be called up to the big leagues as an infielder, and his addition to the team would bring a lot of positive vibes. He was considered one of baseball’s top 100 prospects last year and has been highly active in the Double-A Southern League this year. He hit .292 with three homers, 22 RBI and eight stolen bases in 288 at-bats and might possibly be given a chance at shortstop with his new team.
Elsewhere in the league, Mike Trout won’t be ready to make an appearance with the Angels anytime soon. He limped off the field last Friday and a medical evaluation has determined that he has a pinched nerve that is keeping him from giving 100 percent. The two-time American League MVP has undergone a cryoablation procedure to try to deaden the tissue around the nerve, and his return to the lineup remains questionable. But Angels Manager Brad Ausmus is optimistic that he’ll be back before the end of the week.
The Minnesota Twins are going to be without outfielder Byron Buxton, as he caught a flight to California to see a specialist for a shoulder injury that he can’t shake. His left shoulder has been partially dislocated, thanks to a collision with the right-center field wall on August 1, and the trip had been planned for some time and it’s possible that he won’t be back before the end of the regular season.
The Twins are also down Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Cave. Gonzalez is recovering from an abdominal strain, while Cave has a pulled left groin. With all the injuries, the Twins bought Ryan LaMarre from the Atlanta Braves in an effort to give the team some possible long-term depth. LaMarre can’t take the field in the postseason, but could make a difference for the team next season if the Twins still have to deal with its top players getting banged up.
While the postseason is nowhere near ready to be defined, certain elements are starting to come together to paint a clearer picture of what might be expected. In the American League, the Yankees, the Twins, the Astros, the Athletics, the Indians and the Rays are starting to look really good, according to MLB.com predictions. For the National League, expect the Dodgers, the Braves, the Cardinals, the Cubs, the Nationals, the Diamondbacks, the Phillies and the Brewers to make a run for the championship.