Spring Training Notebook: Injury impacts new Cubs arm, Suzuki debut nearing
PEORIA, Ariz. — Amid the onslaught of Cubs signings last week, left-handed pitcher Steven Brault was one of the new additions to the roster.
It was initially reported as a major league signing but Brault is now with the organization on a minor league deal and arrived at Cubs camp Tuesday morning.
The 29-year-old pitcher finished 2021 on the 60-day IL with a lat strain and while that injury is no longer a factor, another issue popped up the day before his physical with the Cubs. He started feeling something in his triceps and an MRI showed some inflammation.
“It’s gonna be a little while but I’m still glad to have been able to sign here,” Brault said. “Obviously I want to be on the major league side of things but now I just gotta make my way back up.”
After working hard all offseason to overcome the lat injury, Brault called the recent issue “frustrating.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates designated him for assignment at the end of last year and since he was on the 60-day IL to finish the season, he was unable to speak with teams as a free agent during the lockout.
There is no exact timeline for Brault right now, but he will be shut down from throwing for at least a couple of weeks. He won’t be a factor for the Cubs on Opening Day but he could be an option for David Ross’ pitching staff later in the season.
Brault has appeared in 107 MLB games over his 6-year career with the Pirates, making 52 starts. He provides another left-handed option for either the rotation or the bullpen and carries a 4.77 ERA in 343.1 innings.
If he is able to make the journey back to the big leagues, he is looking forward to an opportunity to pitch with the Cubs at “The Friendly Confines.”
“I always say my favorite place to shag batting practice is Wrigley because the fans get there early and they like to talk and so do I,” Brault said. “I’ve always had a lot of fun doing it. My third game I ever pitched in the major leagues was at Wrigley Field 2016 against Jake Arrieta. It was crazy. It was absolutely insane.
“That was when the [bullpen] mound was still on the side, not behind the [outfield wall]. Oh my god, dude, it was unbelievable. I was like, this is the place I wanna go. There’s the insults but then there’s like creative insults. Chicago fans really get that. I appreciate that kind of humor.
“I always thought this would be a cool place to play. Also, it’s Wrigley. The ivy wall, the beautiful city — Wrigleyville — around it. I’ve spent a decent amount of time here over the last five years and I think it will be a really cool experience to be able to play there.”
Brault actually out-dueled Arrieta during that Aug. 29 game in 2016. He allowed 2 runs over 4 innings while Arrieta was touched up for 6 runs in 6.1 frames.
The Cubs ended up winning on a Miguel Montero walk-off single in the bottom of the 13th inning.
Cubs top prospect Brennen Davis was hit by a pitch in his right knee Monday afternoon and came out of the game.
X-rays were negative and Davis was able to work out with the team Tuesday.
“He said he thought he would be more sore than he is today so that’s good,” David Ross said. “It’s good to be young.”
Seiya Suzuki has not yet appeared in a Cactus League game, but that’s on the horizon.
Ross wouldn’t commit to exactly when, only indicating Suzuki would be in the lineup “soon.”
Tuesday morning, the prized free agent signing took some batting practice on Field 1 at the Cubs’ complex and then stood in for live batting practice against Drew Smyly. Suzuki sent a fly ball to left field and struck out against the veteran southpaw, whom the Cubs signed to a deal last week.
Suzuki has only been in camp with the Cubs since Friday after a winter that included making the transition from Japan to America. Since the Cubs have so many pitchers who need to get up to speed quickly, the team is content with letting Suzuki get at-bats in live BP settings instead of games right now.
“He looks great,” Ross said. “The main thing is you don’t have access to live pitching and real reps. You hit in the cage. He looked in great shape, worked out really hard. I think he just likes to hit a lot. It’s just his personality.
“The live BPs, it looks like his timing is getting ready, getting in these drills. I think he’ll be ready to see some action here shortly.”
Hendricks’ 2nd outing
Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks took the mound Tuesday afternoon in Peoria and tossed 2 innings against the Mariners. He threw a little over 40 pitches in the game and then went into the Cubs bullpen to run his workload up to 50 pitches.
It was important to Hendricks to get up and down three different times Tuesday, including the bullpen.
“Next time out, hopefully I can go for 4 [innings] and then have one more after that and be ready for a full start,” he said.
If Hendricks stays on the five-day rotation, he could pitch again Sunday against the Royals. Then he could toss Friday April 1 or Saturday April 2 and still be on regular rest for Opening Day — if that’s the route Ross goes with the Game 1 start.
On Tuesday, Hendricks allowed 2 runs but was really more focused on his work than the results.
“You come back in the dugout and we immediately want to say — ‘where should we have gone? [Should we have thrown] a different pitch or something?'” he said. “But you just have to dial it back and say, ‘OK, that’s the pitch we were throwing, did we execute it? And was it with the action we wanted?’ And overall today, it really was.”
—The league reportedly instituted a few new rules Tuesday, including 28-man rosters for April to counteract the shortened Spring Training. The extra-inning rule with the free runner on second base will also return and all doubleheaders will be 9 innings.