Update: The Cubs have placed Jason Heyward on the DL and have called Dillon Maples up. It’s a interesting move given the impending roster expansion, but 23 games in 23 days requires as many arms as possible and Heyward could use the rest.
Jason Heyward left Thursday’s game after an unsuccessful diving attempt at a Freddie Freeman liner in the left-center gap. There wasn’t anything obviously awkward about the play in real-time, though it did appear on replay as though he’d stepped oddly just before laying out. The initial reaction was that he’d possibly aggravated the sore ankle that had kept him on the bench a couple times last week, but it turned out to be a hamstring issue.
“Being a hamstring puller, I know how bad they are,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “Walking off is a good sign. He’s seeing a doctor here, but I’m sure they’re going to have to do some tests, and then we’ll be more specific. You’re not going to see him play tomorrow or the next day.”
It’s definitely good that Heyward was able to walk off under his own power and that he wasn’t writhing in pain, so we probably aren’t looking at something as severe as what Willson Contreras suffered last year. Even so, hamstrings are tricky and injuries to them can linger well beyond what seems normal. And Heyward plays a position that relies on both explosive jumps and top-end speed.
That’s particularly true of late, since the Gold Glove right fielder has been getting more run in center field. Daniel Murphy’s addition has pushed Ben Zobrist primarily to the corner outfield spots, so five of Heyward’s last nine starts have come in center. Of course, not all of that is a simple matter of Joe Maddon deferring to veterans.
Albert Almora Jr., who replaced Heyward and ended up making a fantastic sliding catch on the track an inning later, has been scuffling at the plate in August. His overall .230/.309/.311 slash doesn’t scream out for regular playing time, particularly against righties. Ian Happ has been even worse over the last month, posting a .174/.259/.283 slash against right-handed pitching that is actually significantly better than he’s done against lefties.
The law of batting averages says neither player should continue to hit so poorly moving forward, but at least one of them had better turn things around pretty quickly if Heyward is out beyond just this weekend.