The Rundown: New KB Injury Scare, Viva Avila, Reds Broadcast Offers Sound of Silence

Were it any other player, I’d consider him snakebit. But seeing Kris Bryant avoid one serious injury after another furthers my belief that he’s not of this world. Mike and Sue Bryant likely found his spacecraft in the Vegas desert and raised him as their own, just like Superman. And now he has to feign injury once in a while just to keep up the ruse.

Bryant’s been working overtime to betray his true identity this season, whether it’s the rolled ankle or the sprained finger. But those came on plays he was trying to make, whereas last night’s scare was made that much worse by the situation. Already leading 13-6 in the 9th inning, Bryant took a 3-0 Drew Storen fastball off the left hand, the kind of thing that screams “BROKEN HAMATE!”

After being checked out by Ed Halbur, one of the team’s trainers, Bryant remained in the game and trotted on down to first. It was shades of Mike Olt, who also remained in the game after being hit by a pitch and suffering a hairline fracture in his right wrist. Not only did Olt stay in, he served as a pinch hitter in the Cubs’ next two contests before being properly diagnosed and placed on the DL on April 17, 2015.

The corresponding move? Why, that would be Bryant’s call-up. Five days later I was sitting next to Olt, having a beer and watching Bryant play center field in the snow in Pittsburgh. That’s still up there among the most surreal things I’ve ever experienced.

It’s also a testament to the danger of really quick diagnoses, though the initial X-rays on Bryant’s hand came back negative and the Cubs are calling it a contusion. Bryant will be getting Wednesday off and they’ll take it from there, though there’s not as much of a rush with a relatively weak schedule ahead. Even so, having Bryant miss minimal time would be a huge boon, particularly with the imminent returns of three other injured stars.

Both Addison Russell and Willson Contreras were performing running drills in the outfield prior to Tuesday’s win in Cincy and both seemed to be working pretty aggressively. We also saw Jon Lester playing catch, another positive sign. There’s still no timetable for any of them to return, though Lester could serve only the 10-day minimum and Russell is saying he could be back within a week and a half or so.

Given Javy Baez’s strong play at short, there’s really no need to rush Russell back. There’s also the matter of September roster expansions, so another week prevents the Cubs from having to make a an extra move to send someone down for a day or two. And when you look at how Tommy La Stella has handled the bat in the second half, you don’t want to lose him for even a short time.

Contreras is still probably looking at another couple of weeks before he’s ready to return. Like Russell and Baez, the fact that the Cubs have a competent replacement for their stud catcher has made his absence much less than the dark void it first seemed like it might be.

Viva Avila

Though he’s only racked up 45 plate appearances in a Cubs uniform, Alex Avila has already accounted for half a win according to fWAR. Factoring for a little rounding here or there and pushing it out to 150 plate appearances, that’s around 1.7 fWAR, which is more than Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo have generated in over 150 PA’s here in the second half.

The burly backstop is slashing .270/.386/.541 and has a 141 wRC+ with the Cubs, numbers that have been boosted by a five-game hitting streak. After striking out in his first at-bat Tuesday evening, Avila went on to walk and single twice each. His latter three trips to the plate came during the 5th, 7th, and 8th innings in which the Cubs scored 12 of their 13 runs.

I suppose it’s possible that Vic Caratini could have done much of the same, though the Cubs going out and claiming Rene Rivera tells you that they don’t really believe that’s the case. Avila portrays a quiet strength and just appears very calm out there on the field, which is exactly what the Cubs need right now.

Coming up big with the bat and throwing out Billy Hamilton trying to steal second provides a little value as well.

The sound of silence

Hello, salty Brennamans
I’ve come to watch your game again
Because the Cubs, they were scorin’
And before I went to bed snorin’
I had to be sure that the vision in my brain
Still remained
And that’s the sound of your silence

Hawk Harrelson is notorious for the amount of dead air he leaves lying around during his broadcasts, but I’m not sure he’s really got anything on the Brennaman boys. Just for giggs, I flipped to the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast to see what Thom in particular was saying. It turned out to be nothing.

No, seriously, it was nothing. I thought something was wrong with the audio when it first kicked over because there was no commentary for 21 seconds. Then a single expository sentence cut through, followed by a full 67 seconds of nothing. And this wasn’t during a pitching change or some cut-away during which a promo was supposed to be playing.

The Reds broadcasters went well over a minute during a Javy Baez at-bat without saying a single word.

More news and notes

  • Cody Bellinger (ankle) and Alex Wood (shoulder) have both hit the DL, hampering the Dodgers down the stretch. Bellinger’s issue isn’t too severe, but you never like seeing pitchers with shoulder issues.
  • The Brewers have claimed Aaron Brooks off waivers from the Cubs, which means he’ll probably pitch a complete game shutout against his old team in a couple weeks.
  • The Cardinals are falling apart, literally and figuratively. Injuries to several key pitchers in the bullpen and rotation have combined with flagging performance to torpedo their hopes for a playoff run. They’ve got time to make up ground, but it’s running out.
  • Anthony Rizzo moved to third following Bryant’s departure, thus becoming the first left-hander to play first, second, and third in the same season since 1908. Hey, that year sounds familiar.

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