Chicago Cubs injury news: Dansby Swanson on IL with right knee sprain, while Seiya Suzuki set to return to lineup

PITTSBURGH — For the last two weeks, Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson tried to endure right knee pain that he hoped would improve.

Instead, his bothersome knee progressively worsened, prompting the Cubs to put Swanson on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Wednesday, with a right knee sprain. Right fielder Seiya Suzuki was activated from the IL as the corresponding move and will return to the lineup Saturday after missing 23 games with a right oblique strain.

“At this point in the year, grinding through 4½ months of this just doesn’t make sense,” manager Craig Counsell said. “So the hope is that with a little break here that he can get this behind him and not have it be an issue for the rest of the season.”

Swanson suffered the injury when he slid into second base on a successful steal April 25 at home against the Houston Astros. His knee was to the point of bothering him on any play or movement, prompting Swanson and the Cubs to take a long-term view of the ailment. The hope is Swanson won’t be out much longer than the 10 days. He is eligible to return May 18, but the Cubs could wait until after their May 20 off day for added recovery, setting him up to be back for their home series versus the Atlanta Braves beginning May 21.

Swanson was known for his durability during his seven seasons in Atlanta. Between 2020-22, he missed only one game.

“That’s where it kind of got to the point of, are we being tough or stupid, and I think we all kind of agreed it was more stupid than tough,” Swanson said Friday of playing through the injury. “We all collaborated on the decision and felt like it was best to get me back to a healthy spot so that I can go out there and perform my best.”

“My pride doesn’t like it, but here we are.”

Nico Hoerner will slide over to shortstop while Swanson is out. Nick Madrigal and Miles Mastrobuoni are the two options at second base with Madrigal getting the start there Friday night. Since the injury occurred, Swanson was 6-for-40 (.150) in his last 12 games with one extra-base hit and 14 strikeouts, part of a slow start to the season.

“Especially when it’s one of the things where you don’t really have any control over it, like, I take care of myself and it’s not an injury that was avoidable, just kind of a freak thing and it happened,” Swanson said. “It stinks because you obviously want to be able to go out there and perform and help the team win and be a part of something bigger than yourself, but I can just do that from my new coaches role the next few days.”

Swanson is the 12th Cub to spend time on the IL only five weeks into the season. Left-hander Jordan Wicks (left forearm strain) is trending in the right direction after throwing a bullpen Friday. The next step will be a multiple-innings bullpen before throwing live batting practice. Wicks will need to go on a rehab assignment before coming off the IL, Counsell said.

Right-hander Jameson Taillon, who opened the season hurt because of low back strain he suffered in spring training, was pushed back from what should have been his start Friday. Taillon felt a tweak in his lower back while warming up for Tuesday’s bullpen. It’s not as severe as what he experienced in spring training, but the feeling was enough to stop and tell the team.

Taillon has been playing catch every day since then and is happy with where he is at. Saturday represents the big test, though. If he has another good catch day and feels good getting five to 10 pitches off the mound, Taillon could start Sunday’s series finale at PNC Park. He described his confidence level as “pretty high” that he will be able to go Sunday. Should he experience a setback, Ben Brown had been an option to start. Counsell wanted to try to stay away from the rookie right-hander Friday to keep that possibility open until they see how Taillon feels Saturday. However, Javier Assad’s pitch count (89) limited him to 4 1/3 innings, prompting Counsell to bring in Brown, who hadn’t pitched since May 2.

Suzuki went on the IL on April 15 with a strained right oblique suffered a day earlier against the Mariners in Seattle while running down the first-base line as he grounded out. Suzuki’s absence was a big loss after a strong start to the season. His 139 OPS+ ranked second among Cubs starters at the time of the injury.

Despite all the injuries to key players, the Cubs survived a tough schedule to begin the season and are over .500.

“I definitely think the optimistic point of view is just seeing what we’ve been able to do not at full strength for most of the season,” Swanson said. “And when we’re all right at full strength back at it, the fun time’s to come. So that’s definitely exciting to think about and hopefully that’ll start happening sooner than later.”