‘Couldn’t have planned it any better’: Hayden Wesneski’s dominant debut was the toast of Cubs clubhouse
As is customary postgame, Wade Miley, Tuesday night’s starter, walked into the press conference room in the underbelly of Wrigley Field.
When he walked in, he looked at the reporters and jokingly asked why anybody wanted to talk to him.
“I’m just the opener,” he said matter-of-factly.
Miley can thank rookie Hayden Wesneski for that. Wesneski pitched 5 shutout innings in relief, striking out 8 Reds and picking up the win in his big-league debut as the Cubs beat the Reds 9-3.
“I don’t know if it gets a whole lot better than that,” Miley said. “Maybe let him start next time, let him have it. That was pretty impressive.”
Hayden Wesneski, 92mph Two Seamer and 82mph Breaking Ball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/SfHgzAYpae— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 7, 2022
Under most circumstances, Miley’s return would have been the talk of the day — he was one of the Cubs’ offseason acquisitions to the rotation and he was making just his 5th start of the season and his first in nearly three months. But Wesneski was so dominant and so effective that even when he talked about himself, Miley couldn’t help but bring up the rookie.
“It was cool to get those jitters again before the game and warming up in the ‘pen,” Miley said. “I had a long 1st inning but other than that felt really good. Got through 4 innings, got to my pitch count. But really fun getting to watch Hayden when he came in after.”
And for Wesneski, Tuesday was unforgettable.
“Today was special. I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Wesneski said. “I didn’t think Chicago on a Tuesday would get this loud. I can’t even imagine when the playoffs and stuff like that.
“I was so stoked just to get through the 9th inning, it’s a tough inning. I made it harder than it needed to be. I’m glad I got through it and it got loud. It fired me up on a Tuesday.”
If he pitches like that, Wrigley Field will routinely be loud anytime he takes the mound.
“What impressed me the most was the composure and the pitchability,” his catcher Yan Gomes said. “He knows exactly what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. His confidence out there was definitely something that stood out.”
That confidence was something that left David Ross and his staff impressed.
“I love the way he attacked the zone,” Ross said. “I love the way he had confidence in multiple pitches in and out, got a lot of first pitch swings there at the back end. Just let him kinda cruise control. There wasn’t a whole lot to do. It was fun just to watch him, sit back and have a nice performance.”
Welcome to the bigs, Hayden Wesneski! pic.twitter.com/9Yw3MgSyx5— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 7, 2022
As calm and cool as he looked on the mound, that wasn’t entirely the case for Wesneski.
He mentioned that on days he pitches he feels nervous “from almost the time I get up to when I go to start and then maybe even into the game.”
Miley helped settle those nerves a touch.
“I’m glad Wade is here,” Wesneski said. “I’ve been with him before in Iowa and it was nice to see him. He called me down, he’s a very comfortable guy to talk to, so him starting today was a big deal to get me right.”
What was Miley’s advice?
“Only thing I told him is, ‘Hey buddy I’m gonna try to hold it close so you can take over and have a chance,’” Miley said. “It was only 2 runs down when he took over, so worked out.”
And whenever things went a little awry for Wesneski — which wasn’t too often when you allow just 2 hits and a walk in 5 innings of work — he looked at the top of the left field foul pole.
“I looked at it and I thought, ‘OK, let’s get locked in,’ and went from there,” Wesneski said.
Then he pitched through the night, hearing hearty ovations from the 27,600 fans in attendance at Wrigley Field after each strikeout and then at the end of the game.
Wesneski stayed on the field after the game to capture photos and soak in the moment of his debut. Miley had an Ace of Spades champagne bottle in his locker after the game with gold lettering celebrating his debut and first win.
The rookie usually calls his dad immediately after each outing, talking to him about his outing. On the good days, he tells him he thinks he can pitch forever and on the bad ones “I tell him I wanna quit.”
So, what will he tell him after today?
“I don’t even know where to start,” Wesneski said. “I’m gonna let him talk. I’ve done enough talking for today.”
And, in a lot of ways, there wasn’t enough to be said about his debut, from his teammates or his coaching staff.