Chicago Cubs: Trevor Williams, Justin Steele to begin rehab assignments

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

As good as the Chicago Cubs bullpen has been, the starting rotation has left plenty to be desired this season. Thankfully, the pitching staff will hopefully receive some reinforcements in the coming weeks in the form of a trio of injured arms who are set to begin rehab assignments.

Trevor Williams, who the Cubs signed in the offseason as part of their overhaul of the rotation, underwent an emergency appendectomy last month and hasn’t pitched since. That’s not to say things had gone entirely well prior to that point, though. The right-hander had worked to a 4.80 FIP in 10 starts – but that number is certainly inflated by a pair of poor outings.

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"“He’s got to build back up to be able to pitch big league innings,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I don’t know how long that’s gonna take. [We need] to pitch and assess and continue to build up, but his body is in a good place, like a Spring Training type.”"

In eight of those 10 starts, he allowed three or fewer runs – although he pitched six frames just two times so far. Getting deep into ballgames has been an issue for this entire rotation in 2021, so Williams certainly isn’t alone in that regard.

Given the ups and downs we’ve seen from almost every guy in the rotation, adding Williams back into the mix can only help things at this point. The Cubs are near-guaranteed to add at least one starting pitcher before the trade deadline, but it’s up to the group in the clubhouse now to hold the fort down in the meantime.

Chicago Cubs: Justin Steele, Dillon Maples could be the future

Both Justin Steele and Dillon Maples had pitched remarkably well for the Chicago Cubs so far this season – and given both are under team control for years to come, could be key pieces to the bullpen moving forward.

Steele, a 25-year-old southpaw the team drafted back in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, worked to a 2.03 ERA and 14.2 K/9 prior to hitting the shelf with a hamstring injury. Of course, Rex Brothers and Andrew Chafin have more than done the job from the left side, but it’ll be good to see Steele back on the bump.

As for Maples, this guy has long enticed Cubs fans with the ever-elusive ‘what if’ given his plus stuff. The only problem is, prior to 2021, he was never able to harness that stuff into effective outings – at least not on a consistent basis.

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But so far this year, it’s been a different story for the right-hander, who will join Steele and Williams with Triple-A Iowa on a rehab assignment. Although he’s still walking too many hitters (5.6 BB/9), he’s pushing 13 K/9 and has put up a 1.99 ERA. Given he’s out of options, it’s make-or-break time for Maples.