Chicago Cubs: Justin Steele turns in a solid debut in the rotation

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Another day, another painful reminder the Chicago Cubs are playing baseball. The first-place Milwaukee Brewers are in town, playing at Wrigley Field which might as well be completely vacant. Seriously, it almost looks like 2020 in the seats again. However, the story here isn’t that the Cubs were defeated (again), furthering their plummet in the NL Central standings. It’s the fact that fans just got to see a glimpse of the newest member of the rotation in Justin Steele.

In an otherwise whirlwind of disarray on the North Side, Steele made his the first start of his budding big league career for Chicago, who desperately needs starting pitching. First of all, to get the financials out of the way, the 26-year-old currently earns the league minimum which means, for some time, the dollars aren’t going to be an issue here.

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For a team that has so much money being freed up at the end of the season, whether they truthfully intend to spend big in the offseason or not, having young contributors on the roster gives them more flexibility knowing they can add a young cost effective arm to the rotation.

Steele spun five frames in his debut, allowing three runs on five hits and just one free pass. Steele was cruising along until the fourth inning where he was bitten by the long ball. He gave up homers to both Willy Adames and Avisail Garcia, where all of the damage against him came from in this one. He struck out one.

Steele, who had been dominant in the bullpen earlier this season and even more so upon returning from injury at Triple-A Iowa, is a welcome breath of fresh air. He doesn’t need to turn into an ace for the Cubs pitching staff to be valuable.

If he could even find Dylan Cease-type of caliber success out of the four-hole it would be a major shot in the arm for David Ross’ club. Anything more than that is simply just gravy at this point.

Chicago Cubs get a solid debut from their young left-hander

Steele’s four-pitch mix of a fastball, slider, curve and change-up has the potential of  top or near-top of the rotation upside. Should he continue to see great command, as he only gave up the one walk today, he should routinely be able to get deeper into games moving forward. Keeping in mind that his first start came against a first-place team, this was an extremely encouraging showing. He started out with six straight ground balls, keeping his pitch count low in the process.

That’s the stuff you love to see. He doesn’t need to mow down 12 hitters a game. Sometimes, you prefer a pitcher inducing soft contact, keeping the pitch count low and getting into the seventh inning or later of a ballgame. Although Steele falls to 0-1 as a starter, the story here is him stepping up and being able to deliver. Unfortunately, this offense is just not scoring many runs in general, let alone against a dominant starter on the mound in Freddy Peralta.

You love to see that, after a shaky four inning where he did allow the three runs, he was able to then settle back down, finish the inning and fire a scoreless fifth frame on top of it before departing for the afternoon. It will be great to see what he can do moving forward.

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If the Cubs stick with a six-man rotation going forward, considering game two of the doubleheader tonight, Steele could line up to face the Marlins this weekend. A hopefully much easier matchup, giving him a solid chance to showcase what he’s got and pick up that first win as a starter.