The Cubs will open up the 2022 regular season on Thursday at Wrigley Field against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first of a four-game set. We already know Kyle Hendricks will get the ball on Opening Day for the third consecutive year, but we now also have a glimpse at what will follow in terms of the team’s starting rotation.
In an ideal world, offseason acquisition Wade Miley might get the ball on the heels of Hendricks’ start Thursday; instead, it’ll be young left-hander Justin Steele taking the hill in Friday’s contest, followed by Marcus Stroman on Saturday.
Now, by no means is the Cubs’ rotation in tip-top shape right now. Two-fifths of what we anticipated as the starting staff is sidelined due to injuries in the form of Miley and right-hander Adbert Alzolay. But manager David Ross has to play the hand he’s dealt and he’s chosen to break up his two best starters to open the year.
Hendricks was always going to start Opening Day and that is obviously well-deserved. Hendricks and Stroman are both down in the zone, pitch-to-contact right-handers and stacking them on back-to-back days isn’t an ideal approach.
Breaking them up with Steele changes the look Milwaukee will face this weekend. After these three, you’re probably looking at some piggybacking to round out the rotation because of the options at the Cubs’ disposal as well as the shorter ramp-up period for arms this spring (again, I might actually feel kind of good about the rotation if and when it gets to 100 percent health-wise).
We know Drew Smyly is in the rotation and I’d guess he probably starts in the finale on Sunday. With a scheduled off-day Monday, Ross could either turn over the rotation and go back to Hendricks for the opener in Pittsburgh Wednesday. Should he opt to give Hendricks the extra day, it’ll be a psuedo-bullpen day for Chicago at PNC Park.
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For now, though, we know who gets the ball for the first three games of the year at the Friendly Confines. I’m stoked to see Steele get a spot in the rotation and, obviously, cannot wait to see Stroman on the bump this weekend.