The Cubs announced Friday that they have reinstated right-handed pitching prospect Oscar De La Cruz from the restricted list following an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic and masking agent. The 24-year-old has made three rehab starts with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans this season, going 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA over 15 innings.
To make room on the roster, right-handed reliever Tony Barnette has been transferred to the 60-day IL. Barnette had been placed on the 10-day IL to start the season after dealing with shoulder inflammation, then posted an 8.10 ERA over 3.1 rehab innings with the Iowa Cubs prior to the move.
These things are generally procedural in nature, since Barnette’s placement on the IL was retroactive to March 25 and he wasn’t going to ready within the next couple weeks. Being on the 10-day IL only removes a player from the 25-man roster, but the 60-day IL opens a spot on the 40-man. As such, the Cubs were able to activate De La Cruz without having to cut anyone else.
They did something very similar Thursday, when Brandon Morrow was transitioned to the 60-day IL in order to clear a roster spot for Addison Russell. That was very much expected following news that Morrow’s right elbow will require at least 2-3 more weeks of rest before he can begin his throwing program again.
There’s not a lot to be hopeful for with either Barnette, who had looked at first like a really nice under-the-radar signing, or Morrow. The latter is particularly perilous, especially if you consider the reasons behind him getting an injection of synthetic lubricant in an elbow that is apparently acting like an arthritic knee.
Rather than end on a downer, let’s look forward to the possibility that De La Cruz can make good on his potential. Even in the midst of his suspension, he was listed at No. 22 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 30 Cubs prospects. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but has flashed a 97 mph fastball with a plus curve and a change that has plenty of promise.
Things got a little wonky for him last season prior to the suspension, so how he is able to adjust in his return to active duty bears watching. Who knows, maybe the time away allowed him to rest his arm and refocus. Fingers crossed.