HomeTrending MLB NewsManager gives update on return timeframe for injured Cubs ace

Manager gives update on return timeframe for injured Cubs ace

Published on

Cubs ace Justin Steele exited his first start of the season with a hamstring strain, and he’s looking at an absence that’s more than double the minimum 15 days on the injured list. Manager Craig Counsell told the Cubs beat today that Steele has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain and is expected to miss the entire month of April (X link via Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic). The team doesn’t have an exact timetable yet, as they’re waiting for Steele to be able to walk without a limp before mapping things out more concretely.

Steele was cruising through a well-deserved first Opening Day start of his career when he tumbled awkwardly while fielding a bunt off the bat of Leody Taveras. The 28-year-old lefty managed to make an impressive play and throw out the speedy Taveras but immediately grabbed at his leg in the aftermath of the play before exiting with a trainer. The Cubs put him on the injured list earlier today and called up pitching prospect Ben Brown.

Losing Steele for at least a sixth of the season is a significant blow to a Cubs club that has its sights set on a return to the postseason in what’s viewed as a wide-open NL Central division. The left-hander was never considered to be a premium prospect but has nevertheless climbed from an unheralded fifth-round pick to not just a solid member of the starting staff but an All-Star and top-five finisher in National League Cy Young voting.

Steele made 30 starts for the Cubs in 2023 and pitched 173  1/3 innings with a 3.06 ERA, 24.6 percent strikeout rate, 5 percent walk rate and 49.4 percent ground-ball rate. That marked his second straight season of a low-3.00s ERA, but Steele dramatically improved his walk rate in 2023 and enjoyed his success over a much larger sample in 2023 than the prior season. Including his 2021 rookie showing and this year’s lone appearance, he’s pitched to a 3.28 ERA in 354 big league innings.

With Steele sidelined for more than a month and perhaps even a fair bit more than that — Counsell did not specify whether early May or late May was the expectation — the Cubs’ rotation depth will be put to the test early. Chicago signed star NPB lefty Shota Imanaga to a four-year contract over the winter, effectively replacing righty Marcus Stroman, who eventually signed with the Yankees as a free agent. Imanaga, Kyle Hendricks and bounceback hopeful Jameson Taillon will lead a staff that’ll now be quite young in the four and five spots.

The 24-year-old Brown, a well-regarded pitching prospect whom the Cubs acquired from the Phillies in the 2022 David Robertson trade, will make his big league debut when he first takes the mound. He has significant command issues in Triple-A last year (15.8 percent walk rate in 72 2/3 innings) but impressed in spring training and has strong overall numbers up through Double-A. Javier Assad has a 3.06 ERA in 41 career appearances, but more than half those have come out of the bullpen. He’s also posted a below-average 20.2 percent strikeout rate against a higher-than-average 9.9 percent walk rate.

The Cubs have a few soft spots on the schedule over the next month-plus, but they’ll face more competitive teams than non-contenders. Their April schedule will see them square off against the Dodgers, Astros, D-backs, Mariners, Padres, Marlins, Red Sox and Rockies. They draw the Mets, Brewers (twice), Padres, Pirates (twice), Braves (twice) and Cardinals in May.

source

Latest articles

Effectively Wild Episode 2154: Sliding Doors and Sliding Home

Amid a wave of pitcher injuries, Ben Lindbergh talks to Dr. Rich Nye (4:20),...

Francisco Alvarez To Undergo Thumb Surgery

6:49PM: Mendoza told reporters (including Mike Puma of the New York Post) this evening...

Red Sox’s Alex Cora gives update on Nick Pivetta’s return

Nick Pivetta threw a bullpen session Saturday, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora gave...

Some Potential Answers for Pete Fairbanks

This content is for Premium, Super-Premium, and Premium Monthly members only. Visit the site...

More like this

Effectively Wild Episode 2154: Sliding Doors and Sliding Home

Amid a wave of pitcher injuries, Ben Lindbergh talks to Dr. Rich Nye (4:20),...

Red Sox’s Alex Cora gives update on Nick Pivetta’s return

Nick Pivetta threw a bullpen session Saturday, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora gave...

Some Potential Answers for Pete Fairbanks

This content is for Premium, Super-Premium, and Premium Monthly members only. Visit the site...