CHICAGO — If the Cubs are going to make the playoffs, they likely will have to do so without All-Star shortstop Javier Baez.
An examination Monday by a team hand specialist confirmed that Baez has a hairline avulsion fracture in his left thumb, which makes him unlikely to return for the remainder of the regular season.
The ulnar collateral ligament of Baez's thumb, however, remains intact and will allow him to embark on a rehab program this month with the hope of returning in October if the Cubs advance to the National League playoffs.
The diagnosis confirmed what the Cubs expected after an MRI on Saturday revealed the hairline fracture.
The loss of Baez was compounded when backup shortstop Addison Russell got beaned by a pitch from the Brewers' Adrian Houser on Sunday.
Russell is in the concussion protocol and was set to be examined by a doctor before Monday night's game against the Padres.
"It's not football, it's not basketball, it's not hockey," manager Joe Maddon said of the setbacks. "You play with emotion, but you play like your emotions are under control. It's not time for a rousing speech. It's not time for a different method. It's about tried and true. It's about us playing as well as we possibly can.
"The trap always is when you talk in more grandiose terms than necessary. And that's the trap that leads to failure."
With Baez out, the Cubs brought up Nico Hoerner, who despite not playing above the Double-A level, went 3-for-4 with a two-run triple and four RBIs and played flawless defense in his major-league debut to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 10-2 win over the Padres on Monday.
Baez injured his hand on a headfirst slide on Sept. 1. X-rays were negative, but Baez expressed discomfort when catching throws. Baez was listed in the starting lineup Thursday but felt discomfort during batting practice and was scratched from the lineup.
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Baez, 26, is hitting .281 with 29 home runs and 85 RBIs in 133 games -- his lowest games played since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2016.
Baez played most of the season with a sore right heel suffered May 19 when he charged a grounder in Washington. He was batting .309 with a .352 on-base percentage and .948 OPS after going 3-for-4 with a home run in a win over the Rockies on June 4.
Since then, Baez is batting .259. He has hit only one home run since Aug. 5 and drove in three runs in his last 10 games.
In 2018, Baez had a breakout season with a .289 batting average, 34 home runs and 111 RBIs and finished second to Christian Yelich in the NL most valuable player voting. But he went 9-for-37 (.247) with no home runs in the Cubs' final nine games.
Meanwhile, third baseman Kris Bryant received a cortisone shot during Sunday's game and said his right knee feels better. He has been dogged by soreness in the knee recently.
"You're always thinking of things you could have done differently," Bryant said. "Maybe be more adamant about what you're feeling. We all get to that point where you put your pride aside, and that's what I had to do."
For the last month, the pain "was pretty constant. It wasn't feeling great," he said.
Hoerner became the first Cubs player with at least three hits and at least four RBIs in his major league debut since Dee Fondy on April 17, 1951, according to Christopher Kamka of NBC Sports Chicago. Hoerner received the balls from each of his three hits in his locker as mementos.
The 22-year-old was the Cubs’ first pick in the 2018 draft and the first member of that draft class to reach the majors.