April 22, 2024

On March 22, the Chicago Cubs faced the San Francisco Giants in Cactus League action. Justin Steele, the Cubs’ ace, started the game but left early due to a leg injury. Steele took a comebacker off his left leg in the top of the second inning.

Steele turned to social media to share an update on his injury. His six-word response suggested he was more concerned about his March Madness bracket than his leg.

“I’m fine…” “My bracket is not,” Steele wrote on X.

Justin Steele Set to Lead the Cubs Rotation in 2024

Cubs pitcher Justin Steele departs opening-day tuneup after he gets hit by  a comebacker

 

Steele made his fourth Cactus League start of 2024 before being cut short. Steele has a 4.91 ERA in four appearances spanning 11.0 innings. Steele was announced as the Cubs’ Opening Day starter on March 9. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, the March 22 performance was his “final tune-up” before opening day.

Steele was chosen by the Cubs from George County High School in 2014. He did not make his MLB debut until 2021. Steele, who spent years in the minors, will make his first professional opening day start in 2023.

“It won’t always be pretty. According to Bastian, Steele stated on March 9 that it will not always be as you imagined. “But sometimes you’ve just got to put your head down, get through the tough times, and the light’s always brighter at the end of the tunnel.”

Steele had a 16-5 record and a 3.06 ERA in 2023. He placed fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

Behind Steele, the Cubs’ rotation comprises Kyle Hendricks, Shota Imanaga, Jordan Wicks, and Javier Assad. Right-hander Jameson Taillon will begin the season on the disabled list, according to Bastian.

State of the Cubs Rotation

The Cubs signed left-hander Shōta Imanaga in free agency this offseason. Imanaga went 7-5 in Japan last season, with a 2.77 ERA. According to Bastian, Imanaga signed a four-year contract worth $53 million. The pact includes an option for the Cubs to extend the contract to five years in 2025 and 2026.

“The widespread assumption is that Imanaga can quickly take over as a No. 2-3 caliber arm. Bastian reported that when pitching for Yokohama in Nippon Professional Baseball last year, Imanaga had a 2.80 ERA in 148 innings and a league-leading 174 strikeouts.

Imanaga has made three Cactus League starts. He’s struck out 19 in 9.2 innings this spring. The 30-year-old southpaw and Steele may form an outstanding top-rotation tandem.

The Cubs will welcome back veteran Hendricks for his 11th season with the organization. Aside from him, the Cubs rotation is rather young. Imanaga, Steele, Wicks, and Assad have fewer major league years combined than Hendricks.

Hendricks has made three Opening Day starts in his career. The 34-year-old believes Steele will handle the pressure well.

“Game 1 is challenging because there is so much emotion and energy. Bastian reports that Hendricks said, “He’s going to handle it great.”

Last season, the Cubs had the ninth highest ERA in the majors. Led by Steele and Imanaga, they have the potential to be even better in 2024.

 

 

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