State of Cubs’ rotation entering road trip after long week originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
By the time Justin Steele’s night was over Sunday, the Cubs lefty turned in one of his best outings of the season, certainly when considering the level of competition.
Steele held a daunting Cardinals lineup to one earned run in seven innings, scattering seven hits with three walks. He was efficient, throwing 94 pitches, in an outing tied for the longest of his career.
It was exactly what the Cubs needed as they wrapped up a brutal stretch of 11 games in nine days that included two doubleheaders and seven different Cubs pitchers making at least one start.
Not to mention a taxed Cubs bullpen after Saturday’s twinbill.
"Just a very consistent Justin Steele," manager David Ross said after the game, a 5-3, extra-inning loss. "That's what we know is in there.
"He did a nice job tonight when we needed it. We were really short in pitching and he gave us a huge outing."
Monday’s off day allows the Cubs to reset entering their road trip against the Orioles and Yankees. And with another off day coming up Thursday, they can manipulate their rotation to maximize the schedule after a grueling week.
That includes getting Kyle Hendricks more rest.
Hendricks last pitched Wednesday, and his normal turn in the rotation lined up with Tuesday’s series opener against the Orioles. Instead, the Cubs pushed back his next outing.
Keegan Thompson and Marcus Stroman will start against Baltimore on normal rest. Thompson last pitched Thursday and Stroman Friday.
“Just giving him a little bit of time,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said of Hendricks. “He's been a horse for us over the beginning of the year, throwing a lot of innings, so it's just a good time to kind of hit a reset button for him.
“When you have an opportunity to kind of build in some extra off days for guys that could use it, we're going to try and take advantage of it.”
That puts Hendricks in play for Friday’s series opener in the Bronx. If he starts that game, Steele would be in line for at least an extra day of rest between outings.
Friday is also when lefty Wade Miley is eligible to return from the 10-day injured list (left shoulder strain). He threw a bullpen Sunday, estimating it to be around 65-70 pitches when including warmups.
Miley said he expects to be ready to come off the IL on Friday.
“Yeah, I think so, for sure,” he said. “I'm itching to get off of there. I don't know exactly what day it'll be, but whatever matches up for us.”
The Cubs don’t technically need a fifth starter until June 14 against the Padres, should they opt to use Thompson and Stroman on normal rest after their outings in Baltimore.
Matt Swarmer, who pitched Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, is another starting option and has done well in two starts after the Cubs promoted him from Triple-A Iowa.
Alec Mills (back, quad) has missed the entire season so far but will travel to Baltimore, manager David Ross said. He’s eligible to return from the IL on Tuesday and will offer the bullpen a multi-inning arm.