Cubs starters' response to rotation injuries was jaw-droppingly impressive

The slew of injuries in the starting rotation could have torpedoed the Cubs' season out of the gates, but instead, several guys stepped up in a big way.
Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox
Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox / Brian Fluharty/GettyImages

Losing your ace on Opening Night when the starting rotation was already opening the year short-handed can be a fatal blow. But with Justin Steele sidelined, Jameson Taillon's 2024 debut delayed by injury and Kyle Hendricks a liability before he hit the IL, the Chicago Cubs got impact contributions from several starters that helped the team set a franchise record with 18 wins in April.

Shota Imanaga flawlessly made the jump from Japan to the big leagues, with the Cubs winning all five of his starts in the first month. Highly coveted pitching prospect Ben Brown recovered from a rocky debut against the reigning World Series champs to become a reliable presence in the rotation and Javier Assad has shed the swingman label and has arguably been the best starting pitcher in baseball over the last year.

Cubs rotation has emerged as a major strength early in the season

With Taillon back and looking better than he ever has in a Cubs uniform and Steele nearing a return to the rotation, Chicago's pitching staff could get immeasurably deeper here in early May, allowing some of these guys who've excelled to shift to the bullpen, where help is needed.

At this point, Assad has forced the Cubs' hand - he can't be moved out of the rotation. With Hendricks a complete wild card, I'd lean toward Brown sticking in the rotation, which could leave Wesneski slotting into that swingman/spot starter role once Steele returns. If Cade Horton makes his big league debut this summer, he and Brown could piggyback each other's starts to limit their innings late in the year.

And let's not forget about Jordan Wicks, either. It feels like the Cubs are really close to having 7-8 guys who could start a game on the 26-man roster, which bodes well given the number of injuries the team has dealt with to this point. There have been a lot of unsung heroes so far for Craig Counsell's club and, while we're excited for the full-strength rotation to be on display, these challenges have helped paint a clearer picture of the depth the Cubs have in this area.