Chicago Cubs camp will soon be a little less crowded.
Players participating in the World Baseball Classic are departing in the coming days to join their teams, some needing to travel overseas for pool play. It leaves the Cubs getting final looks at their WBC players, who might be gone for up to three weeks if their team makes the March 21 championship game.
Here are three takeaways from camp Wednesday.
1. Hayden Wesneski makes his 1st case for the final rotation spot.
Wesneski’s introduction to the spring training competition to be the No. 5 starter was quickly tested by one of the best young players in the game.
But he handled Julio Rodríguez and the Seattle Mariners lineup, tossing two scoreless innings in the Cubs’ 5-3 win. Wesneski struck out Rodríguez and Jared Kelenic to start the game in a perfect first.
Rodríguez left an impression on Wesneski before they squared off.
“He’s bigger than I thought he was,” Wesneski said. “It was cool. You learn a lot that you can do this, especially somebody who’s that talented. I know it’s his first couple at-bats and he’s getting used to (spring training), but you figure if you can get him out, you can get a lot of guys out.”
Wesneski worked around a leadoff double and a walk on a pitch-clock violation with a 3-2 count to start the second. Two more strikeouts sandwiched a groundout to get him out of the inning.
With nearly a month until opening day, it’s far too soon to declare a good performance to be a separator among the other contenders — namely Adrian Sampson and Javier Assad — for the last rotation spot. Coming off a strong finish in the majors to his 2022 season, Wesneski is picking up where he left off.
He was generally happy with his outing Wednesday but wants to work on pitching better out of the stretch and locating his fastball better to his glove side. Regardless of whether he’s the fifth starter to begin the season, Wesneski is positioned to help the Cubs at some point this year.
“It’s weird because you’re in a spot where you can actually have a chance now, and it’s a different mindset,” he said. “But I go back to just doing your job right and then if I don’t make it, I did what I could.”
2. Putting two lefties in the bullpen might not work for the Cubs.
One consideration in how the Cubs build their opening-day roster involves whether they want another left-hander to join Brandon Hughes in the bullpen.
The Cubs could opt for a relief mix that includes a right-hander with reverse or neutral splits against left-handed hitters. Manager David Ross called it a luxury to have two lefties in the bullpen while noting they don’t want to wear out Hughes by using him too much.
“We’re looking for outs,” Ross said. “Whatever form we get those is what the manager cares about. It’s about guys that know how to pitch in the moment. … We’re going to put the best team together.”
Putting only one lefty on the opening-day roster would bode well for right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., who re-signed on a minor-league deal. Leiter, armed with a nasty splitter, shut down left-handed hitters last year, holding them to a .176 average, .243 on-base percentage and 63 OPS+.
3. The Cubs got (mostly) positive injury news.
After the news this week of Seiya Suzuki’s moderate left oblique strain, the Cubs needed some positive momentum on other ailing players.
Patrick Wisdom is day to day with left groin soreness. Because it’s early in camp, the Cubs want to continue to be cautious and take it a little slower with Wisdom, Ross said.
“He feels like if the season was starting, he would be playing in a game,” Ross said. “But I don’t want to push anything right now and just make sure it continues to progress the right way.”
Left-hander Justin Steele (arm fatigue) threw a bullpen session Tuesday and came out of it feeling well. Ross said Steele is on track to make his next start after he was scratched from his Cactus League debut Sunday.
Right-hander Jordan Holloway, a non-roster invitee, is dealing with a moderate right oblique strain. He sustained the injury Monday versus the Arizona Diamondbacks, causing him to exit.
Source: Berkshire mont
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