Spring Training Notebook: Brad Wieck’s injury and Justin Steele’s spring debut
MESA, Ariz. — It was an exciting time for Brad Wieck.
After all he had been through – having his 2021 season shut down in July due to an irregular heartbeat and then having to go through the uncertainty of the lockout – Wieck was just excited to step back on a mound for the Cubs again as he prepared to throw a bullpen session last Friday.
The good vibes were short lived.
In the middle of his bullpen session, Wieck felt a pain in his throwing elbow and put a halt to his session. After an MRI, it was revealed he had a grade 2 strain in his flexor and was placed on the 60-day IL on Thursday.
“It sucks,” Wieck said. “The past couple of years haven’t been easy, but I’ve had some highs and I’ve had some lows, so you know it’s been a roller coaster the last couple of years, but this is just one more obstacle I have to deal with.”
Wieck showed his potential in 2021 before he was shut down. He pitched 17 scoreless innings last year, allowing just 10 hits in that time and a 1.18 WHIP. Opponents are hitting just .191 against him in his big league career.
“He was expected to be a big piece of our bullpen and kind of a big blow to us as of right now, but hopefully, I know he’ll continue to work to get back to us as fast as he possibly can,” manager David Ross said. “That kinda stuff, it just stinks for players, the injury stuff. Especially as much as he’s had to deal with, you feel for him.”
Wieck has been through the highs and lows of injuries before and the satisfaction that comes at the end of that journey is why he is fighting through this latest setback.
“I’ve had a couple of comeback stories and I remember all of those first times and back and they’re special,” Wieck said. “I’m just ready to put in the work to prepare for this next special comeback for me.”
Steele’s spring debut
Lefty Justin Steele pitched in his first game of the spring Saturday afternoon at Sloan Park. The 26-year-old threw 2 shutout innings, striking out 2, allowing no hits and walking 1.
“I just wanted to go out there and start facing hitters again and kinda get back in the swing of things and definitely felt really good to get back out there,” Steele said after the outing.
The plan so far for Steele is to be a part of the Cubs rotation. But he admitted with a shortened Spring Training and having to ramp up so quickly, things could be fluid.
“I’ve thought about that myself kinda like piggybacks or how are we gonna get through 9 inning games when nobody’s built up to like 5, 6, 7 innings yet,” Steele said. “I’m assuming maybe piggyback situations, multiple inning relievers coming into the game after the starter if he’s only able to go like 4 innings and hits his pitch count. But yeah, it’s something definitely we’re gonna have to figure out.”
Cubs make deals official
On Saturday, the Cubs announced they had officially signed infielder Jonathan Villar and left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly to 1-year contracts with mutual options for 2023. They also signed lefty Daniel Norris to a 1-year major league deal.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Cubs placed David Bote on the 60-day IL while he recovers from left shoulder surgery he had in the offseason and placed righty Tommy Nance on the COVID-19 injury list.
Villar is a career .258 hitter with 98 home runs in 9 seasons. The switch-hitter had a .249 batting average with 18 home runs with the Mets last season.
Smyly was part of the World Series-winning Braves in 2021 and pitched to a 4.48 ERA in 29 games. He made 23 starts for Atlanta, posting a 1.37 WHIP.
Norris made 56 relief appearances in 2021 with Detroit and Milwaukee.