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Shota Imanaga has exceeded expectations with Cubs so far

3 weeks agoTony Andracki

It’s hard to imagine Shota Imanaga’s career getting off to a better start.

The Cubs are certainly stoked with what he’s been able to provide the team after signing out of Japan in January.

Imanaga was named the National League Rookie of the Month for March/April on Friday after a dominant start to his MLB career.

The 30-year-old southpaw went 4-0 with a sparkling 0.98 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 5 April outings.

He struck out 28 batters in 27.2 innings and the opposition slashed just .181/.204/.257 (.461 OPS) off him.

“It’s been fun to watch him pitch,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He has exceeded expectations because anybody who pitches like that would exceed your expectations — Gerrit Cole or Max Scherzer or whatever.

“He’s pitched incredibly, incredibly well. He’s got his career off to a great start and it’s been fun to watch.”

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Imanaga carried that success over into May with his best outing yet — 7 shutout innings with 7 strikeouts and only 4 baserunners allowed (3 hits and a walk) Wednesday in New York.

The Cubs have won all 6 of his starts, which would be a big deal no matter what but has been especially important given the state of the rotation.

Justin Steele has not pitched since Opening Day (though will return on Monday), Jameson Taillon missed the first few weeks of the year with a back injury, Kyle Hendricks is on the IL currently and struggled to the tune of a 12.00 ERA before landing on the shelf and Jordan Wicks is also sidelined.

Through it all, Imanaga has been a steadying force for this team and the Cubs have been impressed with the way he’s been able to adjust to a new league and brand-new environment.

“It’s been fun to watch him just take the next challenge and pass it with flying colors,” Counsell said. “And it’s also been fun to watch the little things you start to appreciate. His defensive ability has shown up and he’s just kind of savvy about handling [stuff] — throw this at you or go pitch here and he’s just done it all really, really well. And with a good sense about him.

“The other thing is he’s ready for what’s coming at him. He’s almost preparing for what’s coming at him and that makes the adjustments a little bit faster. And I think that’s what he’s going to be great at.”

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