Posted on July 23, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Chicago Cubs have endured a slump for much of the past month, but they received a big boost Friday night with the return of outfielder Dexter Fowler. After missing more than a month of action with a hamstring injury, Fowler returned from the DL with a bang, going 3 for 4, a triple shy of the cycle, and hitting a home run to leadoff the game in Chicago’s win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It feels like Opening Day,” Fowler said before the game. “It feels good to get back on the field and get back with these guys.” Before being sidelined with the hamstring injury, Fowler was enjoying a career year. After his outing Friday night, Fowler has an OPS of .909, obliterating anything he’s done previously. “I have to try to pick it back up where I was and go from there,” Fowler said about trying to regain the form he had previously.
As excited as Fowler was to return to the Cubs, Chicago manager Joe Maddon was equally excited. Before the game, Maddon called Fowler into his office and told him: “You go, we go.” The skipper delivered the same message to his center fielder before each at bat, and at least one game into his return, Fowler is taking that message to heart.
“It’s a wonderful evening for him, and it’s really apparent how important he is to us,” Maddon said after the game. “I was watching him in center field between innings and he’s laughing with (shortstop Addison Russell) and with Jason (Hayward) out in right field, and it just looked right.” Maddon seemed especially pleased about Fowler’s leadoff home run. “How about it? Just right out of the gate, crushes the ball to center field,” he said.
Of course, Maddon remains cautious about the health of Fowler’s hamstring upon his return. “I said, ‘Even during the course of the game, talk to me. Let me know how you’re feeling,'” Maddon told the media. The manager said he may remove Fowler from games early as a precaution to protect his hamstring, as Fowler is that important to Chicago’s cause.
While Fowler was on the DL, the Cubs went 11-17, which cut a seemingly insurmountable lead atop the NL Central to a more manageable distance for the rival St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. However, with Fowler back in the fold, the Cubs are undoubtedly more confident about their ability to break out of their recent slump and once again become the dominant force they were earlier in the season. Fowler has undeniably been one of Chicago’s biggest catalysts this season, and with him back, the Cubs are once again poised to win the NL Central and attempt another deep postseason run.