Steele City: Justin Steele ready for 2022 after a stellar final start in 2021
The final few weeks of the season, the Cubs have preached finishing the season on a positive note.
In his final start of the season, Justin Steele performed like a tenor, pitching a career-high 7 shutout innings, striking out 7 Pirates, scattering just 4 hits and propelling the Cubs to a 9-0 win over the Pirates.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, he added a single in one of his 3 at-bats on the night.
“It was really good to end the season on a high note like that,” Steele said. “It was really good to end my season on a night like that where I was just really executing on my pitches when I wanted to.”
Saddled with a lead from the first pitch of the game, Steele attacked the Pirates lineup from the start. He surrendered an infield single on the first pitch of the game on a ball that was fielded by third baseman Matt Duffy deep down the line. He bounced back, striking out Yoshi Tsutsugo and inducing groundouts to Bryan Reynolds and Colin Moran to end the inning.
He avoided any real trouble and when he did stumble a bit, he quickly recovered and stymied the Pittsburgh hitters — like in the 4th inning.
After a groundout, Reynolds singled and Moran walked. A quick mound visit got Steele back in control and induced a flyball by Jacob Stallings and induced a groundball to end the threat.
“If i got into a point where I wasn’t executing my pitches, I was able to dial it back in pretty quickly and I think that’s why I was more successful tonight,” Steele said.
He pitched 1-2-3 innings the next two frames, picking up four strikeouts in doing so. He pitched a clean 7th and finished the night throwing 76 pitches, including 50 for strikes.
David Ross turned to his bullpen for the final 2 innings.
“It was a nice night for him, a nice note to end on, clean inning,” Ross said. “Then there’s some guys in the bullpen that need a little work as well.”
It capped Steele’s rookie campaign in which he showed just how valuable he could be to the Cubs’ pitching staff in the future.
He started the year pitching out of the bullpen and served as a crucial bridge arm from the Cubs’ starters to the dominant back end of the bullpen early in the year. After a hamstring injury landed him on the IL, Steele was sent down to Triple-A to be stretched out.
In 9 starts, Steele posted a 4.95 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 43.2 innings but showed signs of growth throughout his time as a starter.
“Coming up in the bullpen, it showed me that I really belong here,” Steele said. “It gave me confidence going into the starting rotation. It’s been a really good year. It’s really been fun. A lot to build off, a lot to work on in the offseason, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
For Steele that means being ready to help in whatever role. If the team signs a few starters, he’s ready to help the Cubs out of the bullpen. If they have an opening in the rotation, he’s ready to compete for that, too.
“I wanna help this team win ball games. That’s where I’m at. That’s my mentality,” Steele said. “My eyes are on a World Series. I wanna win a championship. And if it’s in the bullpen, if it’s in the starting rotation, I’m gonna leave that up to the Cubs. They’re gonna use me the best way that they see fit. I’m gonna go out there and try and get outs.
“I’m here to compete.”