The Cubs made a roster move on Saturday that seemed concerning at the time. They announced that right-handed reliever Rowan Wick was placed on the injured list, retroactive to Sept. 17 with a left oblique strain (lefty Andrew Chafin, acquired at the trade deadline, comes up as a corresponding move).
Things got a lot more serious than "concerning" when on Zoom a bit later manager David Ross said the injury was serious and it might cost Wick the rest of the 2020 season, playoffs included (via Sahadev Sharma).
Now that is a big deal. Wick has been one of Ross' primary late-innings guys this season along with Jeremy Jeffress and Craig Kimbrel. In 19 outings, Wick has four saves and five holds with zero blown saves. He's pitched to a 3.12 ERA with 20 strikeouts and five unintentional walks in 17 1/3 innings.
What's worse, the Cubs' bullpen has really settled in with the current stable of arms. Rightfully derided as a major weakness of the club in the early going, heading into Saturday night's action the Cubs lead the majors with a 1.92 ERA in September (51 2/3 innings).
With Wick down, the following pitchers who are currently throwing well take on increased importance.
- Kimbrel has a 1.59 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings since Aug. 6. In September, he's gone six scoreless innings, striking out 11 against zero walks.
- Jason Adam only has 10 outings this season, but he's struck out 18 in 10 1/3 innings with a 2.61 ERA.
- Duane Underwood has had seven straight scoreless outings, striking out nine against one walk in 6 2/3 innings during that time -- allowing a paltry .143/.182/.190 slash line against.
Jeffress has been good all year and holds down the closer job, though there has been some shakiness lately. Ryan Tepera has mostly been good this season, though two meltdowns have skewed his line. Still, 28 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings show what kind of stuff he has.
Those five have to be the main late-inning guys for the Cubs moving forward. The only problem is they are all right handed. Chafin coming up provides some hope for an effective lefty, but he's no sure thing. Former fixture in the rotation, southpaw Jose Quintana is said to be close to a return from his lat injury, so he could also be an answer there.
The good news for the Cubs is with just over a week left and a 5 1/2 game lead in the NL Central, they have time to see how they want to reconfigure things without Wick in the mix for late-and-close situations. The bad news is they just lost a major cog in the most improved area of the team with the playoffs looming.