The Chicago Cubs should soon get an offensive boost and beef up their defense in right field.
Manager David Ross indicated Monday that Seiya Suzuki could rejoin the Cubs during their upcoming West Coast trip to Los Angeles (Friday-Sunday) and Oakland (April 17-19), calling him the “best of the cases” for the return of Suzuki. He would line up with the team’s projection in mid-April when Suzuki strained his left oblique in late February.
Suzuki is 2-for-5 with an RBI, a walk and a strikeout in two games of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa, which he had off Monday. His injury kept him from making plate appearances in the Cactus League before he finished camp. Players typically get around 50 plate appearances in spring training to prepare for the season.
“We’re just taking it day by day and making sure he’s comfortable,” Ross said before the series opener against the Seattle Mariners at Wrigley Field. “It’s nowhere near that (number), so I just try to make it as strong as possible.”
Suzuki would deepen a Cubs lineup that was able to rack up hits to produce a two-run fourth inning Monday against Mariners ace Luis Castillo. Cody Bellinger’s first double of the season tied the game at 1, and Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer followed with back-to-back singles to put the Cubs ahead.
With the way the top third of the order (Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson and Ian Happ) have looked to start the season, the Cubs need those guys in the middle to produce.
Suzuki would also beef up the defense in right field, where the Cubs have relied on a mix of players who aren’t true outfielders. Miles Mastrobuoni made his fourth start at the position Monday, while the Cubs have also used Mancini (three starts) and Patrick Wisdom (two) at right.
As the Cubs await Suzuki’s return, they called up outfielder Nelson Velázquez from Iowa on Monday and opted for right-hander Javier Assad as the corresponding move. The addition of Velazquez, who was 12-for-33 (.364) with two doubles and three home runs in eight games at Iowa, gives Ross an option when he wants a late-inning defensive upgrade.
Assad was not ready in two multi-inning relief appearances. He allowed six runs in 4⅓ innings, including three runs in three innings against the Cubs..
Assad will be used as a starter in Iowa to develop, get regular work and provide starting depth. The Cubs weren’t using him enough as a multi-inning reliever, in part because Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay can fill that role, too.
Ross did not rule out Assad returning to the Cubs’ bullpen at some point.