Justin Steele shows poise, potential in first big-league start
Just over a week ago, when the Cubs made their moves at the trade deadline, Jed Hoyer spoke about building the “next great Cubs team”.
David Ross and the Cubs know Tuesday’s game was an important step in that direction. Justin Steele’s first start as a big leaguer was crucial for the Cubs as they hope to build the frame of the rotation of that “next great Cubs team”.
“I would definitely say, this is a positive that the organization has a big-time arm from the left-hand side that has the potential to be something special,” Ross said.
Except for 8 pitches in the 4th inning, Steele showed promise in his first start. He threw 5 innings of 3-run ball — all 3 runs came during those 8 pitches in the 4th — allowing just 5 hits on 70 pitches. He was efficient from the start, inducing 7 groundballs to start the game, with 6 of them resulting in outs and 1 in an infield hit.
“It felt good to be back at Wrigley and pitching again,” Ross said. “It felt really good to see the fans, see the family. It was a really good experience. Something to build off of.”
As the Cubs embark on their next chapter, they know the importance of developing young, homegrown talent, especially pitchers.
“When you look at the good organizations, there’s usually a good mix of veterans and guys on contract with some young guys really contributing,” Ross said. “You start to implement that farm system into the mix and then you can sustain winning for a long time. It’s exciting.”
Steele showed poise and moxie, like a big-league starter with hundreds of outings under his belt.
In the 4th inning, his first 8 pitches of the inning resulted in a home run, a double and a home run that staked the Brewers to a 3-1 lead. He bounced back from that, inducing a groundout and a pair of flyouts to rally. In the 5th, he allowed a one-out single and then a two-out walk and induced a flyout to escape any damage.
“Just took some deep breaths and realized that there’s more pitches to be made and just went right back at ’em,” Steele said. “Brushed it right off. You gotta get over them things quick. It’s baseball.”
Part of that composure he showed comes from his previous big-league experience. He spent a little over a month with the Cubs in April and May, pitching in 11 games.
“Coming up in the bullpen first, it helped a ton,” Steele said. “I was able to get the first actual debut out of the way. It really helped me settle in as far as the mental side goes. Like I knew that I could pitch at this level.”
There was one moment in Steele’s first run with the club that Ross recalls as a step in his maturation process.
In the second game of a doubleheader against the Dodgers, Steele came in with a runner on second in the 9th inning — an extra inning — and escaped the inning without allowing a run. He walked off the field excited and emotional.
“I still smile every time I get that image in my head,” Ross said. “Those are growth moments for me. You grow, you know you belong. You have times in your major league career where you overcome that name on the back of the jersey.”