Cubs lay out pitching plans for London series with Cardinals
The Cubs are set for their first-ever series in Europe this weekend.
David Ross and his coaching staff laid out the pitching plans on Wednesday before the Cubs put the finishing touches on a sweep of the Pirates with an 8-3 win in Pittsburgh.
Justin Steele will go Saturday against the Cardinals and Marcus Stroman takes the ball Sunday.
That means the Cubs are skipping Jameson Taillon and Drew Smyly in the rotation and they will instead line up on the homestand next week.
“Smyly may go to the ‘pen for the series,” David Ross told reporters Wednesday morning. “Whether we use him or not, I don’t know. I don’t think pitching will be something that we have some kind of shortage of with a 2-game set with three off days around that.”
The Cubs are off Thursday and Friday and then again on Monday, so the bullpen should get plenty of rest. Most of the relievers should be available to throw back-to-backs over the weekend if needed but Smyly’s presence down there gives the Cubs another left-handed arm.
With Brandon Hughes on the IL, the Cubs have only one lefty in the bullpen (Anthony Kay). Smyly has made 83 relief appearances in his career, including 2021 when he was moved to the bullpen with the Braves for the stretch run and into the playoffs.
The schedule also affords Taillon more time off to get back on track. He was the big addition to the rotation this offseason but has gotten off to a slow start with his new team, going 2-5 with a 6.71 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.
The way the Cubs line up the rotation, it gives Stroman another chance soon in game action thanks to the off-days.
“He’s just on regular rest,” Ross said of Stroman. “Best pitcher in a division game. It lines up really well. He likes to stay on turn, so there’s a lot of factors going into that.”
Stroman tossed 7 shutout innings against the Pirates on Tuesday night. He leads the National League in wins (9), ERA (2.28), quality starts (14), innings pitched (98.2), WHIP (1.02) and Baseball Reference WAR (4.0).
As for the Cubs’ travel plans, Taylor McGregor had a great rundown of the Cubs’ itinerary for London and how they plan to combat the major time change and prioritize rest.
After the Cubs return to the U.S., they will play 13 straight games starting on Tuesday until the All-Star Break.
The first 6 of those come at home against the Phillies and Guardians before a trip to Milwaukee and New York (Yankees).