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How the Cubs Will Fill Justin Steele’s Absence in April

Star left-handed pitcher Justin Steele’s absence will be felt by the Chicago Cubs throughout April. The 2023 All-Star got the ball on Opening Night against the Texas Rangers. He left the ballgame early after injuring his hamstring. Steele exited the contest with two outs in the fifth inning, throwing 67 pitches. He surrendered one run on three hits, while striking out six batters and only walking one. 

Cubs skipper Craig Counsell has already told the media that the southpaw should miss the first month of the season. The front office and coaching staff are hoping to have Steele back by the time his spot comes around in the rotation in the first week of May. 

How the Cubs Plan to Fill the Void in Justin Steele’s Absence

Already Down 

Steele isn’t the first Cubs arm to be down early in the season. Veteran right-hander Jameson Taillon was scratched right before his first spring training start due to back tightness. Taillon has not thrown in an organized game in 2024 and expects to miss some time in April due to this injury. 

Having an absence before the season began forced Counsell to go younger with his initial rotation. He named Jordan Wicks and Javier Assad to join Steele, Kyle Hendricks, and first-year Cub Shota Imanaga. Wicks started the final game of the Texas series on Sunday, throwing four innings. The young left-hander picked up a no-decision, allowing two runs on five hits in the Cubs’ first victory of the 2024 season. As for Assad, he will make his season debut in game two of the home opening series against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday. 

Who’s Next? 

An addition to the youth movement of Assad and Wicks in the rotation transpired over the weekend. The front office made their first call to Iowa after they placed Steele on the 15-day IL. The Cubs promoted Ben Brown to the show early Saturday morning and made his major league debut in the team’s 11-2 loss that night. The 24-year-old’s final line from his first major league appearance definitely wasn’t what he hoped for. However, his sharp slider mixed with his upper 90s fastball showed plenty of promise to get Cubs fans excited. He recorded five outs and allowed five hits and six runs in Arlington. 

Even though fans were excited to see Brown on Saturday, some were confused at the same time. If he is being called up to take Steele’s spot in the rotation, why was he throwing at all on Saturday, let alone more than one inning? The team later acknowledged that Brown was slated to throw in Iowa that night. The coaching staff wanted to get him in the ballgame, if possible, to keep his routine consistent. Keeping Brown on schedule despite the promotion was important and it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to collect a start later on this week. 

If Brown remains in the bullpen, one would have to imagine veteran left-hander Drew Smyly would slot in for Steele. Smyly threw out of the bullpen on Opening Day, picking up the loss in the 4-3 extra-inning defeat. There is no confirmation as to who will toss in place of the team’s best pitcher from a year ago. It will have to be a group effort to try and replicate the type of production Steele brings from the mound in his absence.


Photo Credit: © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


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