Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Seiya Suzuki’s Opening Day Status Becomes Clear

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Several MLB writers and analysts had Chicago Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki as a breakout candidate for the 2023 season, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the Japanese star will have his season delayed because of a left oblique strain.

Although no one on the Cubs has outwardly said that Suzuki would be placed on the injured list once the team leaves spring training to begin the regular season against the Milwaukee Brewers, Jed Hoyer did hint at how long Suzuki could be out for, bringing up Opening Day being in jeopardy for the right-handed hitter. Cubs fans have pretty much assumed that Suzuki wouldn’t be ready by the end of March and now Cubs beat writer Meghan Montemurro is reporting that the right fielder will indeed not be active when the season begins in less than three weeks.

Via the Chicago Tribune.

Suzuki will start the season on the injured list because of his left oblique strain, a source told the Tribune, with a best-case scenario, involving no setbacks, setting up a return sometime in April. 

Not Earth-shattering news for Cubs fans because that has been the expectation ever since an MRI revealed the moderate oblique strain just a few days after the team’s first spring training game against the San Francisco Giants on Feb. 25.

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According to the Chicago Tribune, Suzuki is making some positive strides, but is still not cleared for baseball activities and won’t be until he has regained full range of motion without feeling tightness in his strained area.

Suzuki is progressing through his mobility work. Although pain-free, he is still feeling tightness in his oblique and has not achieved full range of motion. Once he clears that point, the Cubs will likely re-image his oblique to see how it looks, and if it appears OK, Suzuki would move on to baseball activities.

Ever since Suzuki was sidelined at the beginning of spring training action there’s been one feeling and there’s no escaping it no matter how positive you want to be about the 2023 Cubs, this flat out sucks. Suzuki was one of the guys who you could project to be a breakout star at the plate following his rookie season in 2022. And now you’re looking at a best-case scenario of Suzuki missing a few weeks or maybe even most of the month of April before he takes his first at-bat with the Cubs this season.

In 2022, Suzuki slashed .262/.336/.433, with 14 home runs and a 116 wRC+ in 446 plate appearances. He missed a big chunk of his rookie year because of a finger injury that happened in late May.

If the Cubs had thoughts of being competitive in 2023, Suzuki has to be a key contributor in the middle of the lineup. Now, with Suzuki out the Cubs are going to need other guys to step up and find a few more to fill in for him in right field in April.

We’re now halfway through spring training and it seems like a mix of Patrick Wisdom and Trey Mancini will be the main fill-ins in right field, while non-roster invitee Mike Tauchman is making a compelling case to be on the Opening Day roster, having a track record of playing time in the outfield and producing at the plate when he’s been in the lineup during Cactus League play.

But again, what’s most important is that Suzuki does fully recover, so that when he returns, he’s 100 percent for the Cubs.

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