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Cubs All-Star Pitcher Nearing Return After Opening Day Injury

Chicago Cubs left-hander Justin Steele is nearing his return to the Cubs rotation after injuring his hamstring on Opening Day. Steele was placed on the injured list after suffering a Grade 1 strain of his left hamstring on Opening Day. The 28-year-old southpaw threw a bullpen session last week, taking the mound for the first time since injuring his hamstring. Steele is scheduled to face batters again in a live batting practice on Sunday. If Steele can get through batting practice without experiencing any setbacks, he could begin a rehab assignment shortly after.

A fifth-round draft pick in 2014, Justin Steele became an All-Star for the first time last season. Steele made 30 starts for the Cubs in 2023, pitching to a 16-5 record with a 3.06 ERA. He recorded a career-high 176 strikeouts and finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting. The left-hander hit his stride in a 16-game stretch between May and September last season. He went 10-1 pitching to a 2.30 ERA with 102 strikeouts and 17 walks in 94 innings pitched.

Justin Steele Nearing Return To Cubs Rotation

Steele was an unexpected ace for Chicago last season and earned the title officially following the departure of Marcus Stroman. A large part of Steele’s success last season came from perfecting his four-seam fastball, which has become his signature pitch. His four-seamer doesn’t light up the radar gun, but its unique movement and Steele’s cross-body delivery keeps hitters guessing. Paired with a slider, Steele’s success has come by throwing those two pitches more than 96% of the time. Only Jesús Luzardo and Patrick Corbin generated more swinging strikes on sliders outside of the strike zone among left-handers last season.

Chicago currently sits just a half-game back of the Milwaukee Brewers for the top spot in the NL Central. While Steele has been sidelined, the Cubs rotation has been led by Shota Imanaga and Javier Assad. Right-hander Jameson Taillon made his season debut in Chicago’s win over Miami on Friday after suffering a back injury in Spring Training.

It’s unclear how many rehab starts Steele might need to make before returning to the Cubs rotation. Cubs manager Craig Counsell said that after Steele was placed on the injured list, he expected the lefty to return sometime in May. When Steele does return to the Cubs rotation, he’ll look to build on his breakout campaign last season and help Chicago return to the postseason.

Main Photo Credits: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


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