Lefty Justin Steele burst onto the scene in mid-April and made 11 relief appearances during which his electric stuff led to a 2-0 record with a 2.03 ERA and 21 strikeouts in just 13.1 innings. Then came the hamstring injury that landed him on the IL, during which time the Cubs’ fortunes took a turn for the worse. Needing help for the rotation this season and in years to come, Steele was kept at Triple-A after being activated in order to stretch out as a starter.
In four starts at Iowa, Steele has gone 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA while punching out 19 batters and walking seven over 15.2 innings. That’s pretty solid stuff, folks. He’s been pitching on five days’ rest and just pitched on Thursday — five innings with no runs on four hits and no walks to go with five strikeouts — which would put him on track to start again on Wednesday.
The Cubs will be in Denver to take on the Rockies, an overall awful team that could make for a soft landing in Steele’s first start. Then again, the Rox are 33-20 at home and failed to trade Trevor Story so the matchup could actually be a tough one. The Cubs are home Friday, but it’s against the first-place White Sox and that would be a long break between appearances.
It sounds as though the Cubs are hashing those things out now, as David Ross told the media prior to Sunday’s game in DC.
“I would say he’s really close,” Ross said. “I think [we’re] gonna see just where he slots in. But yeah, I’ve had those conversations and I would say he’s close.”
Nothing the Cubs do the rest of the season will stop you from wanting to throw up in your mouth a little bit when you see former stars mashing or shoving in other uniforms, but the emergence of Steele and other potential impact players will help. Keegan Thompson will also be back in a starting role once he stretches out in Iowa, then you’ve got Manny Rodriguez with triple-digit heat to lead a group of young relievers on the come.