Cubs News

Cubs starting rotation close to receiving much-needed reinforcements

1 month agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs’ rotation has reinforcements on the horizon.

Jameson Taillon pitched 3.2 innings Friday with Triple-A Iowa on a rehab assignment, throwing 68 pitches and came out of the outing feeling good. He’ll make his next start with the big-league team, manager Craig Counsell said before the Cubs’ 4-1 over Seattle on Saturday.

“He’s gonna pitch for us,” Counsell said before the game. “We haven’t determined what date yet, but he’s gonna pitch for us.”

Additionally, Justin Steele will throw a bullpen on Saturday in Seattle before the second game against the Mariners.

Taillon’s return is welcome news to a starting staff that has been pieced together since Spring Training when he suffered a back injury that meant he started the season on the IL. Then, Steele went down on Opening Day and the Cubs had to turn to three rookies in their rotation — Jordan Wicks, Shota Imanaga and Ben Brown.

The results haven’t been what Counsell or the Cubs would have hoped for. They have received just 2 quality starts this season, the second-fewest in baseball, ahead of only the Nationals. The Cubs have had more innings pitched from their relievers (57) than their starters (56.2). They have just two pitchers — Imanaga and Javier Assad — pitch more than 5.1 innings this season.

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The hope is that Taillon’s return can alleviate some of the heavy bullpen usage that the Cubs have had to rely on. Taillon was expected to be the Cubs’ No. 2 starter behind Steele, but instead, the Cubs have had both down for almost the entire season. The righty had a 3.38 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over his final 16 games (15 starts) last season and proved to be a real stabilizing force in the Cubs’ rotation. 

While they haven’t determined a date, Taillon’s next outing could be later next week when they return from their West Coast trip. While the Cubs haven’t announced starters for the series in Arizona, Ben Brown, Kyle Hendricks and Jordan Wicks are next in line after Assad starts Sunday’s finale in Seattle.

Thursday’s opener against Miami would line up for Imanaga, but the Cubs could opt to start Taillon on Thursday, giving both he and Imanaga at least 5 days between starts.

The other question the Cubs will face is what they choose to do with their 26-man roster for Taillon. They can opt to option one of the starters to Iowa in a straight swap — Wicks, Brown and Assad all have options. But Assad has arguably been the Cubs’ second-best starter behind Imanaga and Brown looked good in his first big-league start, allowing 3 hits and a walk with 5 strikeouts in 4.2 scoreless innings.

The Cubs might choose to keep all six starters, too. They’re amid a 26-games-in-27-days stretch and pivoting to a 6-man rotation could offer long-term protection to all their starters. That would allow them to ease Steele back into the rotation, too, if he returns in May, as the Cubs hoped.

Regardless, the return of Taillon is a welcome sign to a Cubs rotation in need of some sort of injection early on this season.

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