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Cubs starting pitching has been their calling card

Shota Imanaga has exceeded expectations start his MLB career. (Torrey Fields/The Bigs Visuals)

CHICAGO - The Cubs are fortunate to find themselves seven games over .500. With an offense that has struggled immensely with runners in scoring position as of late without Seiya Suzuki who's on a rehab assignment with AAA Iowa today, Cody Bellinger who returned from the IL last night going 3-4 with a HR and a floundering bullpen with Mark Leiter Jr. being manager Craig Counsell's lone trustworthy arm, their starting pitching has been the Cubs calling card. 

"Our starting pitching has been excellent," Counsell said. "Some of the guys that were in the rotation all year like Shota and Javy have been brilliant, Jameson Taillon's been excellent and Hayden and Ben have come up and have been really important to the bullpen and starting and have done an excellent job."

Tallion's lower back injury, Kyle Hendricks lower back strain, Jordan Wicks strained forearm and Justin Steele's strained left hamstring landed each Cubs starter a stint on the IL in the first month and some change. The immediate adaptation and brilliance of Shota Imanaga, the continued success of Javier Assad, the ascension of top prospect Ben Brown and Hayden Wesneski digging deep to find his true self in AAA to start the season has helped fill in the gaps keeping the Cubs tied with the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central. 

Wesneski admitted he was not in the right head space during the off-season/going into spring training and didn't deserve to be on the opening day roster. "I was working out and doing all the right things. I just didn't attack it the way I wanted to. I needed to start in AAA," he said. "I didn't think my mechanics were right and I didn't deserve to make the team. I wasn't pitching well and I needed that time."

"It's like kinda hard to put into words. I feel like everybody in the rotation that was pitching while I was gone is like top ten in MLB right now as far as ERA's go. The rotation's been almost flawless as of late," said Cubs ace Justin Steele.

After making one rehab start with AAA Iowa, Steele returned from a hamstring injury he suffered in Texas versus the Rangers on opening day to give the Cubs 4.2 innings of solid work in their 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres Monday night in front of 35,560 at the Friendly Confines. 

Justin Steele returned to the mound after a hamstring injury had him sidelined over a month. (Torrey Fields/The Bigs Visuals)

"It felt really good, especially pitching at Wrigley again in front of the fans," Steele said. "Really awesome just to be back with the team again in the locker room hanging out with the guys and stuff and yeah it felt really good to be out there pitching again."

Steele was in command of everything and didn't look rusty one bit. Since the start of the 2022 season, Steele is 15-7 with a 2.63 ERA (52 ER/178 IP) in 33 starts at Wrigley Field. Since making his MLB debut in 2021, the 2023 National League All-Star is 24-16 with a 3.24 ERA. (129 ER/358.2 IP)

Over the last 23 games, Cubs starters lead the the National League for the most innings pitched with 125 and boast an ERA of 2.63 (35 ER/120.2 IP) which ranks second best in the N.L. In addition, the Cubs have three starters with sub 2.00 ERAs. Imanaga leads all of baseball with a 1.08 ERA followed by Taillon at 1.13 and Assad at 1.66. They are tied with the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox for the most in MLB.

Imanaga won the National League Rookie of the Month for April and has been the preeminent pitcher in baseball. "The Throwing Philosopher" has only allowed 5 earned runs in 41.2 innings while amassing an 8.75 strikeout/walk ratio which is second best in the N.L. His 0.82 WHIP is sixth in MLB and hitters own a .187 batting average. While he's not blowing hitters away with velocity, his wicked fastball up/splitter down combo has been nothing short of spectacular and I know it's a small sample size but it looks like the Cubs ROI will yield a significant return.

"It's been fun to watch him pitch," Counsell said. It's fun to watch teams try and make adjustments to him and he just keeps making pitches. He's exceeded expectations and he's pitched incredibly, incredibly well. He's gotten his career off to a great start and it's been fun to watch. He's been a big deal here and he's been so so important to us and a big reason why we're off to a good start."

Imanaga threw a career high 102 pitches in a no decision in the Cubs 3-2 win on rookie Michael Busch's first career walk-off home run last night. Imanaga is the first starting pitcher in Cubs history to begin his career with seven-straight starts of two runs or fewer. Busch praised Imanaga's genius on the mound as well as his character.

"It's always fun playing behind Shota. The guy's just a competitor, obviously he's got the stuff and the charisma and just everything about him. He's awesome in the clubhouse. He's just a competitor and he's going out and doing his thing and really fun to watch and it's just really fun to be behind him.

1 Comment

Nice piece bro, and yes they have been stellar to say the least arms like Assad and Wesneski have been clutch. They are usually in the bullpen which explains the struggles within the relievers but but but Alzolay NEEDS to get right, it was nice to see him get outs today

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