By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The timing for an injury to any key player is never good. In the case of Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler, losing him for two weeks could be a tough component to deal with.
Fowler left Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh with a right hamstring strain. Cubs doctors were trying to evaluate how long the injury would keep Fowler out before the deciding on the disabled list or a few games’ rest.
“I talked to the doctor and waiting for more,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday evening before the series finale against Pittsburgh. “He is sore. We are still trying to evaluate length — whether he was to be DL (bound) or not. When we have more information and conclude it, I will be able to talk more with Theo (Epstein), Jed (Hoyer) and the trainers. I don’t have a final answer yet. He won’t play tonight. I will be honest about that. I really don’t know the overall plan yet.”
Getting another player up from the minor leagues might be the only part of the equation to complete before putting Fowler on the DL. The 30-year-old Fowler has been one of the league’s more dynamic offensive players in the first 65 games of the season, and he’s leading all center field candidates for the All-Star vote.
Fowler is also seeing the most pitches of any National League player (4.32 per at-bat). The impact he has had on the lineup and run production has been a big part of the reason Chicago is an MLB-best 46-20, and his .398 on-base percentage ranks ninth in the league. He has reached base in 53 of the 64 games he has played in.
Replacing Fowler in center will be Jason Heyward on Sunday. Albert Almora is an excellent defensive outfielder and might get more time in the lineup if Fowler must sit.
“He has pretty much set the offensive tone for us along with (Ben Zobrist),” Maddon said of Fowler’s impact. “You look at our run differential, he is the one that pretty much set that up. The first part of the season really took on this tone that it did, because of him. When I say to him ‘you go, we go,’ it’s pretty much true when he is making things happen at the top. When it happens, the rest of the group seems to fall in order. He has been playing really high-caliber baseball.”
After being rumored to have signed a three-year deal with Baltimore, Fowler flipped his decision process and signed for a year and an option with Chicago ($14 million total due) this past offseason. He can become a free agent again in November.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.