HomeMLB RumorsCubs Notes: Taillon, Steele, Wisdom

Cubs Notes: Taillon, Steele, Wisdom

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Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon opened the season on the injured list after missing all of Spring Training due to calf and back issues, but club manager Craig Counsell told reporters (including the Chicago Sun Times’ Maddie Lee) that Taillon’s next start will come with the big league club in Chicago after a strong rehab start from the 32-year-old Friday night during which he struck out 4 in 3 2/3 scoreless innings while building up to 68 pitches.

Taillon is in the second year of the four-year, $68MM deal he signed with Chicago and enters 2024 hoping to get off to a better start after a brutal first half sunk his 2023 campaign. The right-hander pitched to solid results in his first 3 starts with the Cubs last year but struggled badly following a groin injury he sustained in mid-April, posting a 7.61 ERA and 6.07 FIP in his next eleven starts. From there, however, the right-hander appeared to turn a corner and performed more like the mid-rotation arm he was signed to be, with a 3.38 ERA and 4.24 FIP over his final 90 2/3 innings of work.

If the veteran righty can maintain that form he showed in the second half of the season last year, it would provide a major boost to the Cubs’ rotation. The club has been forced to lean heavily on youngsters Javier Assad, Jordan Wicks, and Ben Brown to this point in the young 2024 campaign due to injuries sustained by Taillon and ace lefty Justin Steele in addition to the struggles of veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who has posted a 12.08 ERA across the first three starts of his 2024 campaign. Taillon’s return to the rotation could allow one of those young pitchers to move to the bullpen, where the club has seen closer Adbert Alzolay and veteran free agent signing Hector Neris scuffle somewhat to open the season.

Looking beyond Taillon, it seems as though more reinforcements for the club’s pitching staff could be on the way in the coming weeks, as Counsell indicated to reporters (including Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune) that Steele was also making progress in his bid to return from the hamstring strain he sustained during his Opening Day start against the Rangers. Per Counsell, Steele was scheduled to throw a 25-pitch bullpen session yesterday. It’s a notable step forward for the lefty, which MLB.com adds comes on the heels of a 75-pitch simulated game pitched off flat ground in San Diego earlier this week.

The news appears to leave Steele on track to return sometime next month. That Steele appears to be on track to return fairly quickly is surely a relief for Chicago, as the lefty has broken out as one of the game’s best starters in recent years. Dating back to June of the 2022 season, Steele has pitched to a sterling 2.73 ERA with a 3.05 FIP across 45 starts. In that time, only Justin Verlander, Shohei Ohtani, and Blake Snell have posted a lower ERA in at least 250 innings of work, while only Verlander, Spencer Strider, Kevin Gausman, and Sonny Gray boast a lower FIP.

Also on the mend from injury is slugger Patrick Wisdom, who began the season on the injured list due to back strain. The 32-year-old is six games into a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa, however, and could be rapidly nearing a return. Counsell told reporters recently (including those at MLB.com) that Wisdom could rejoin the club at some point during their current road trip. The Cubs will finish a series in Seattle this afternoon before wrapping their road trip with a three-game set in Arizona.

Should Wisdom end up joining the club in Arizona, that could be the end of veteran first baseman Garrett Cooper’s time with Chicago. Cooper has impressed in part-time duty with five hits including a double, a triple, and a home run in his first 15 plate appearances with the club. Even so, it’s hard to imagine the Cubs having room for both the 2022 All Star and Wisdom on the roster when Michael Busch and Christopher Morel appear to have locked down the infield corners for the foreseeable future. Cooper cannot be optioned to the minor leagues after signing a minor league deal with the club in free agency, though each of Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, and Miles Mastrobuoni have options remaining should the Cubs wish to retain Cooper on the big league roster.

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