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Stress fracture could end Soler’s season

Updated: June 27, 2013 11:16PM

MILWAUKEE — The Cubs’ competitive timeline took another potential hit this week when outfielder Jorge Soler, one of the top three prospects in the organization, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left tibia that could sideline him the rest of the season.

Cubs president Theo Epstein said the club is optimistic Soler can work back from the injury quickly enough to play before the minor-league season ends Sept. 1 and that he can make up lost at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.

But Soler is expected to miss at least a month in a walking boot before being able to resume baseball activity, costing him important development time in his first full season of pro baseball.

“To lose possibly two months of development in his first year of playing every day, now you miss out on that first season of playing 142 games every day,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s unfortunate. Hopefully he can play some winter ball somewhere and pick up those at-bats.”

Soler, 21, has been projected to be a major part of the Cubs’ long-term core as soon as he signed a nine-year, $30 million deal last summer.

The lost time is especially significant for the Cuban defector, who missed almost two seasons of organized ball because of issues related to the defection and his residency status.

“Obviously, it’ll harm [his development] real short term,” Epstein said, “but I think if he gets back and plays again this year and can play in the fall league, that should make up for it.”

Soler, who had just been selected for the prestigious Futures Game, apparently hurt the leg originally by fouling a ball off his shin during spring training, Epstein said. He was able to play without much issue until it began bothering him about two months later.

It’s just the latest setback in a star-crossed season for Soler that included a suspension in April for instigating a bench-clearing incident by stalking toward the opposing dugout with a bat before being restrained.

After returning from the suspension, he was benched for a game by Class A Daytona manager Dave Keller for failing to run hard to first twice in a late-April game.

But Epstein and Sveum said they have been impressed with Soler’s approach and maturity for his age at the plate and his ability to make adjustments quickly.

He was hitting .281 with eight homers, 35 RBI and an .810 OPS in 55 games.

“He did a nice job on the bases and in the outfield,” Epstein added, “and bounced back from that one incident to be a good teammate and a good citizen, and we feel great about his future prospects.”

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