Here's how Craig Counsell is going about building out the Cubs pitching staff

The new man calling the shots is focused on just one thing when looking at how he rounds out Chicago's staff heading into 2024: getting outs.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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By the end of the 2023 season, a large swath of Chicago Cubs fans had grown pretty irritated by David Ross' handling of the pitching staff. Riding the same four relievers throughout the entire season led to guys being burned out by September, setting up a historic collapse in the final weeks and keeping the team from clinching a postseason berth.

Meanwhile, new Cubs and longtime Brewers manager Craig Counsell has long been lauded as one of the best managers in the game in that regard. Of course, it didn't hurt that he boasted Josh Hader and/or Devin Williams for almost his entire time in Milwaukee, but regardless, he should be an upgrade over Ross in that regard.

In a roundup over at MLB.com, Counsell opened up a little about how he's going about building out the Chicago pitching staff this spring - and shed light on his approach.

“I think of it as, ‘Who are the best people to get hitters out?’ It doesn’t have anything to do with [being] left-handed or right-handed. Who’s going to get people out the best? That’s who’s going to pitch.”

The question - and the response - are worthwhile because following the latest Jameson Taillon injury update, the Cubs could wind up being very left-handed heavy in the starting rotation.

Cubs could shift left-handers from the bullpen to the rotation early

Justin Steele and Shota Imanaga are locked into the rotation, as is Kyle Hendricks. But looking at the group that's vying for those final (now two) spots, we have Drew Smyly and Jordan Wicks, both of whom are also lefties. That means Chicago could head into Opening Day with a rotation featuring four southpaws - which makes one wonder how many lefties will earn a spot in the bullpen.

Luke Little seems the likeliest of the arms in camp to break with the big league club. Brad Wieck was recently sent to Triple-A Iowa and Richard Lovelady has piled up strikeouts, but allowed multiple runs in two of his five spring appearances.

With Opening Day just over two weeks away, expect the final pieces to be falling into place soon. Once that happens, we'll be able to break down how Counsell may deploy his staff to attack hitters but, at least right now, it feels like we could be looking at a lefty-heavy rotation to open the year with spare left-handed options in the pen as the team covers Taillon's spot in the rotation.

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