Cubs provide promising injury updates on Justin Steele, Seiya Suzuki and Kyle Hendricks

Chicago Cubs pitcher Justin Steele signs autographs for fans before the team’s home opener against the Colorado Rockies Monday, April 1, 2024, in Chicago. He has been on the IL for most of the season so far.

Erin Hooley/AP Photos

NEW YORK – For the Cubs, Monday was a good injury news day, a nice change of pace for a team that has key contributors in all phases of the game on the injured list.

The team is targeting “later this week,” for veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks (low back strain) to make his first rehab start since landing on the 15-day IL last week, manager Craig Counsell said. Hendricks progressed to throwing off a mound on Saturday, and that phase of his rehab process has gone well.

In his rehab stint, Hendricks will also be working to address the mechanical, execution and pitch-usage issues that plagued his rough start to the season, as he amassed a 12.00 ERA in five starts. His headway in those areas will also factor into how long his rehab assignment lasts.

Lefty Justin Steele, on the other hand, was throwing well when he strained his hamstring in his Opening Day start. Steele is set to throw 60 to 65 pitches in a rehab game with Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, and after that, “it’s possible” that his next start could be with the major-league team, Counsell said.

“We’re going to see how Wednesday goes,” Counsell said. “So, Wednesday is a big day, for sure. And then we’ll make the plan after Wednesday, essentially.”

On the other side of the ball, slugger Seiya Suzuki (strained right oblique) joined the team in New York, after remaining in Chicago for the Boston portion of the road trip. He’s been ramping up baseball activities and went through what Counsell called some “harder workouts” on Saturday and Sunday. Monday was a recovery day for Suzuki.

Counsell said it was “a little soon,” to be talking about a rehab assignment for Suzuki.

“We’ve got to clear some steps to point to a day there,” Counsell said.

Alternate history

The day after Counsell first met with Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer this past November about the team’s interest in hiring him, he flew to New York to interview with the Mets.

“It went great,” Counsell said Monday of that trip, sitting in the Citi Field visitor’s dugout before facing the Mets for the first time since his free agency this past winter. “I enjoyed it. I mean, David [Stearns] is a good friend. So, I enjoyed spending time with him and learning about the organization.”

Stearns, now the Mets president of baseball operations, headed the Brewers’ baseball operations department for most of Counsell’s time in Milwaukee as manager.

Counsell, of course, ultimately chose the Cubs over the Mets, Guardians and Brewers, opening a new chapter in his managerial career.

“It turned out to be the right fit in Chicago,” he said.

PCA returns

Cubs top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong came to the organization in a deadline trade in 2021 for shortstop Javy Báez, right-hander Trevor Williams and cash. This week, for the first time in his major-league career, he’s facing the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2020 draft.

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