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Cubs name starter for Saturday against Braves

11 months agoAndy Martinez

One of the Cubs’ best relievers of late will get the starting nod Saturday against the Braves.

David Ross announced Friday afternoon that Javier Assad would start the second game of the three-game set against Atlanta. Assad has been stellar in long-relief for the Cubs lately. In his last 9 outings, the righty has a 0.40 ERA and 0.85 WHIP across 22.1 innings.

The Cubs rotation was left thin after Marcus Stroman landed on the 15-day IL early this week with right hip inflammation. It appeared likely that Hayden Wesneski might be in line for the start — he was recalled from Triple-A last week and served as an opener for Drew Smyly in St. Louis. The righty had been starting and was stretched out with Iowa.

But the Braves’ potent lineup scored 7 times on 8 hits in the 4th inning against Kyle Hendricks en route to an 8-0 win over the Cubs on Friday. Hendricks was pulled after the 4th and Wesneski pitched 3 innings in relief, allowing just 1 hit — a solo home run to Austin Riley in the 7th. That left only Assad as a potential starter for the Cubs on Saturday.

The Cubs’ starting pitching depth was limited this week beyond Stroman’s injury. Prospect Ben Brown, who is on the 40-man roster, was placed on the 7-day IL down in Iowa. That left only Caleb Kilian as a real starter option for the Cubs. He’s set to pitch Sunday for Iowa, but his promotion would have required a roster move and he’s struggled in the big leagues, posting a 12.27 ERA and 2.39 WHIP in 14.2 innings across 4 starts.

Assad has yet to make a start this year, but he made 8 in 2022, posting a 2.95 ERA in 36.2 innings. He was competing with Adrian Sampson and Wesneski for the Cubs’ fifth starter role in Spring Training. Assad, though, shined in a multi-inning relief role for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, prompting the Cubs to use him in that role on the Opening Day roster.

Assad was optioned in mid-May after posting a 5.09 ERA in relief. He was being stretched out at Triple-A Iowa when he was recalled and optioned twice. Since returning in late May, Assad has thrived in that multi-inning relief role for the Cubs.

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