Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart couldn’t make it to the Cactus League opener before he suffered another injury that set him back 2-3 weeks. During an intrasquad game on Feb. 21, Stewart suffered a mild-to-moderate left quad strain. His injury happened while he was rounding first base.
Stewart was coming off wrist surgery that forced him to miss the second half of the 2012 MLB season. Along with Luis Valbuena, Stewart was supposed to compete for the starting job at third base. When manager Dale Sveum was questioned about whether Stewart would retain his starting job, Sveum claimed “It’s his job to win.”
It’s hard for Stewart to win a job when he isn’t playing. For a professional athlete in his mid-20s, it’s amazing to see Stewart suffer such an injury when he’s just running the bases. Now he’ll miss at least half of spring training. Even after Stewart returns, quad injuries can linger on for weeks.
Was this injury an unfortunate fluke or a result of poor off-season conditioning? I’m blessed enough to admit that in the 1,000s of times that I’ve run outside to grab my mail, I’ve never suffered any type of leg injury. I’m not a well-conditioned athlete.
Would the Cubs release Stewart? This past off-season, Stewart signed a one-year, $2 million contract. However, that money was not guaranteed. The Cubs could release Stewart before Opening Day, only paying him a small termination fee.
Valbuena has taken advantage of the extra playing time. He hit his second homer in as many days during the Cubs’ Cactus League opener against the Los Angeles Angels. That power surge isn’t too surprising. Valbuena displayed his power during spring training when he played with the Cleveland Indians
Despite the limited reps that Stewart will receive in spring training, don’t expect him to get cut. The Cubs can afford $2 million. More importantly, this organization lacks depth at third base. Josh Vitters has his own quad injury and Junior Lake isn’t ready.
Unless Sveum is happy with Valbuena starting and Brent Lillibridge as his backup, Stewart still has a good chance of making the team and getting that paycheck.