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After ‘crazy year,’ what’s next for Cubs rookie pitcher Hayden Wesneski?

1 year agoAndy Martinez

CINCINNATI — Just over a couple of months ago, Hayden Wesneski thought he’d be finishing the 2022 season with his team — the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

So, what would he have thought of the idea of standing in the visitor’s clubhouse after his last outing of the year at Great American Ballpark?

“I’d tell you you’re lying,” Wesneski said. “It’s been weird. It’s just been a crazy year, to be honest with you.”

Wesneski started the season with the Yankees Triple-A affiliate and ended it in the big leagues, pitching in the rotation for the Cubs effectively — posting a 2.18 ERA with 33 strikeouts to 7 walks in 33 innings across 6 games (4 starts). Wesneski was a top prospect with the Yankees before being traded to the Cubs for reliever Scott Effross. 

His run includes his finale against the Reds, where he scattered 2 runs — 1 earned — in 6 innings, striking out 6 and allowing 4 hits, 2 of which came on balls with exit velocities less than 70 miles per hour.

“I thought he threw great, actually,” David Ross said. “Every outing gave us a chance to win, threw strikes. Commanded the zone with multiple pitches.”

Wesneski was a harsher critic on himself.

“The results were great, yes — just the way it went about it was not exactly how I wanted,” Wesneski said. “Everybody else thinks it was really cool. But it’s just, I really wish I would’ve attacked a little bit better towards the end. I’m very happy with the results. With the process I wasn’t as happy with.”

If there’s room to improve, that bodes well for he and the Cubs. Opponents this year hit just .198 off him and his slider proved to be a major-league ready pitch. He threw it 130 times, picking up 16 strikeouts and opponents hit just .121 off it.

His preparation is giving him confidence that he can, in fact, improve. Even when he didn’t feel at his best, he was still able to put up results and put his team in a position to win a game, like he did Monday night.

“I mean, when you’re not feeling good, the work starts to come out,” Wesneski said. “If you slacked on Saturday, Monday you’re not going to have it. It just kind of just shows that I put myself in a good spot to be successful.”

But part of his maturation comes with the routine off the field.

“It’s totally different than the minor leagues,” Wesneski said. “Just handling facing guys like [Bryce] Harper and big names like CJ Cron and Charlie Blackmon and stuff like that. You just kind of had to take it as they’re human. You kind of have to slow it down and understand this is a lot more than in the minor leagues as well. So just kind of digesting what the big-league lifestyle is.”

Now Wesneski goes into the offseason with quite the early big-league resume. He was stellar and even had a major accomplishment — an immaculate inning in Pittsburgh — but there’s more he wants to do in the majors.

“The immaculate inning, I think it’s really cool, but I don’t know I’d rather really throw well, and really pitch in the playoffs,” Wesneski said. “I want to win. I like winning.

“So, to be honest with you, those things are all really cool, but I’d rather be pitching in [the playoffs in] October.”

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