This coming Sunday is Sept. 1, which is the day teams can expand their active rosters from 25 players up to 40 players. The September call-up rules will change next year -- teams will only be able to carry up to 28 players -- but, for now, they are the same as always. Up to 40 active players starting Sunday.
Top prospects like Yankees righty Deivi Garcia and Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux typically get the most attention as September call-ups and that is understandable. They're the shiny new toys and oftentimes we've never seen them play before, so we can imagine them becoming pretty much anything. Next year's Rookie of the Year, a future Cy Young candidate, whatever.
September is also a time when teams welcome players back from the injured list. Once healthy, clubs can activate players without sending someone else down, and it's easy to believe an established player will contribute down the stretch now that he's over his injury. That can be risky, especially with pitchers, but it happens each season and will again this year.
Several big name players are expected to return from the injured list in September, after rosters expand, and those players will have a chance to impact the various postseason races. Here are 10 currently injured players expected to return next month and likely to affect the postseason picture.
The Indians have been without Carlos Carrasco (leukemia) and Corey Kluber (broken forearm) most of the season, plus they traded Trevor Bauer at the deadline, yet their rotation remains rock solid. Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale has done nice work filling in. Kluber suffered what might have been a season-ending abdominal injury in his most recent minor league rehab start, but Carrasco's rehab assignment is going well, and he's expected to join the team when rosters expand Sunday. The Indians are planning to use him out of the bullpen, where he'll presumably pair with closer Brad Hand in the late innings. Cleveland is battling for the AL Central title with a wild-card spot serving as Plan B.
Cubs catchers are hitting .211/.297/.311 in August, with the Victor Caratini/Jonathan Lucroy tandem trying their best while Willson Contreras works his way back from a hamstring strain. He recently started agility drills and throwing, but is still more likely to return in mid September than early in the month. Whenever it is, the Cubs will take it. Contreras was having a fine season before getting hurt and Chicago is right in the thick of the wild-card race, and still relevant in the NL Central race.
The Astros have a comfortable nine-game lead in the AL West, so there's no need to rush Carlos Correa back from his back injury. That said, Houston is battling the Dodgers and Yankees for the best record in baseball and thus homefield advantage throughout the postseason, and Correa can make a difference there. Yeah, the Astros clinched the World Series in a Game 7 on the road two years ago. They also played an ALCS in which the home team won every game. Homefield advantage can make a big difference.
Tommy John surgery ended Johnny Cueto's 2018 season in July and he is five starts into a minor league rehab assignment. So far everything is going well and the expectation is Cueto will join the Giants in the first 7-10 days of September. San Francisco has faded since their midseason hot stretch, but the team remains only 4 1/2 games behind the second wild-card spot. Getting, say, four starts from Cueto in September could improve the team's postseason chances quite a bit.