Marcus Stroman finds himself in the throes of a second rehabilitation journey, one that is marked by a different injury altogether.


The initial setback occurred when Stroman was sidelined due to a diagnosis of right hip inflammation, leading to his placement on the 15-day injured list on Aug. 2, with retroactive effect from Aug. 1.

His path to recovery appeared promising as he underwent three bullpen sessions during the team’s August road trip through New York and Toronto, eliciting encouraging signs of progress.

However, as the series concluded, Stroman reported experiencing discomfort in his side. This development led to a subsequent MRI, which unveiled an unexpected diagnosis: a right rib cage cartilage fracture.


“I’m still trying to process it,” said Stroman, who added that he has no idea how this particular injury happened.


Now, the right-hander is making his way back again. He threw a bullpen session Monday at the Cubs’ complex in Arizona. 


“It was clean,” manager David Ross said. “No real issues. He’ll throw another one soon.”


Cubs Await Stroman’s Return as Playoffs Beckon


Amidst the buzz surrounding Stroman’s return to the pitching mound, one pressing question dominates the conversation: When will he rejoin the Cubs’ rotation, and can he bounce back to his best?


Chicago, who has the best record in baseball (32-14) since July 18, currently occupies the second Wild Card spot in the National League, trailing the Phillies. Before his recent injury, Stroman was in the running for the Cy Young award, boasting impressive stats with a 2.88 ERA and a .203 opposing batting average. 


However, his performance took a nosedive in his last three starts before the injury, resulting in a challenging 15.30 ERA and 17 earned runs over just 10 innings pitched. The slump came just four games after the 32-year-old elected not to toe the rubber in the Midsummer Classic to get extra rest in preparation for the second half of the season. 


“Listen, he’s a big part of why we’re here,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “He was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s had some struggles now, but certainly, guys have ups and downs all the time. And he really carried us for a period of time. The hope is that he gets back to that, certainly.”


Cubs’ Pitching Rotation Rises to the Occasion as Stroman Rehabs


As the 2023 All-Star makes his comeback, the Cubs are banking on his return to full health and a resurgence of his first-half form. If he can recapture his earlier dominance, the Cubs could become a sleeper team in the postseason race.


“I think a healthy version of him is a good thing for us,” Ross said. “However we use that, however he feels about that, I haven’t had conversations with Marcus. … We haven’t made any decisions today. I think we’ll get him healthy. We’ll stretch him out as far as we can, work him back to be a starter, and if we get to a point where that benefits us, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll look at another role.”


In the meantime, the Cubs rotation is holding down the fort until Stroman can get back into the mix. 


“We’re right in the thick of it,” Stroman said. “You see how we’re playing. I truly believe we can win the division and once you’re in the playoffs, it’s anyone’s game. No one’s a bigger believer in the Cubs than me.”


Chicago’s rotation without Stroman is led by All-Star Justin Steele and veterans Jameson Taillon and Kyle Hendricks. Javier Assad has earned himself a spot on the staff with his recent success, while lefty Drew Smyly and righty Hayden Wesneski offer options for the fifth spot.


“It’s no secret Stro was one of the best pitchers in baseball for like two months,” Taillon said. “We would love to get him back. I really have no clue what his timeline is or where he’s going to be at, but it’s a good opportunity for me. … I have an opportunity in front of me to step up and prove why they went and got me.”


Taillon signed a four-year, $68 million contract in free agency last offseason. He will play a pivotal role on the bump and help guide this staff in Stroman’s absence. 

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