Marcus Stroman to start Cubs spring training opener Saturday

Chicago Cubs v New York Mets
Chicago Cubs v New York Mets / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

We have our first Cubs probable starting pitcher of the year, folks. Veteran right-hander Marcus Stroman is set to start the team's Cactus League opener on Saturday at Sloan Park.

Right-hander Adrian Sampson will piggyback Stroman as one of three candidates to seize the fifth and final spot in the Cubs rotation out of camp. He's looking to gain an edge over fellow righties Javier Assad and Hayden Wesneski in one of the only real competitions in camp this year.

Stroman, in the final guaranteed year of the contract he signed prior to the lockout late in 2021, finished last season on a high note and will be a key piece to the puzzle again in 2023. Earlier this week, Rick Sutcliffe and Tommy Hottovy watched a Stroman bullpen and came away impressed with where he was for this early in the spring.

Cubs need consistency, more innings from Marcus Stroman in 2023

In 2022, Stroman was good for 2.6 bWAR, making 25 starts and working to a 3.76 FIP for the North Siders. Hopefully he can avoid the IL stints that hit him last year, first a case of COVID and then a shoulder injury, and the Cubs can get more than the 138 2/3 innings he produced last time around.

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Looking to avoid another slow start like what we saw last April, the Cubs are counting on Stroman to help the club get off on the right foot. Building on his 2.71 second-half ERA and making some big improvements to his work at Wrigley Field (5.18 ERA at home last year) will be keys for the former All-Star and Gold Glover.