Cubs' starting rotation battle heats up


The Chicago Cubs have locked up most of their starting rotation for the start of the 2023 season, but the competition for the final spot in that group is turning into a remarkable competition, with Javier Assad and Hayden Wesneski both acing their auditions so far. 

Assad is arguably doing so on a bigger stage at this point as he represents Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. 

He made his first appearance for the squad at Chase Field Sunday night against the reigning champion Team USA, and he made the most of it, allowing just one hit and striking out Pete Alonso twice in three quality innings of work. 

He showed his mettle in the sixth inning as the Americans attempted to mount a comeback, with Mike Trout leading off the frame with a single. Assad retired Paul Goldschmidt on a pop-out, got Nolan Arenado to ground into a fielder’s choice, and struck out Alonso for the second time to stop the rally and keep the Mexican squad in front. 

He has also shown improved velocity so far this spring, hitting 97 MPH on the radar gun multiple times in Mexico’s victory Sunday night. 

In two appearances for the Cubs during Cactus League action, Assad struck out two batters and issued just one walk in four hitless innings of work. 

Wesneski, coming off a strong debut season for the Cubs in which he posted a 0.94 WHIP and struck out 33 batters, has been dynamite so far this spring too, striking out 11 batters in three Cactus League starts. 

He has also issued just two walks and scattered five hits in 8.2 innings, with one unearned run on his ledger. 

The strikeout stuff certainly has caught the attention of Cubs’ scouts, and it’s been on full display as he’s shown improved control in the early going in spring. 

It is not clear when the Cubs will make a decision on their fifth starter, but the possibility exists of using one of the hurlers out of the bullpen, with Assad a logical candidate based on his efficiency and his improved velocity. 

Adrian Sampson is still hoping to be part of that mix but he has struggled mightily in three appearances, giving up 13 earned runs and eight home runs in three appearances so far. 

Either pitcher could potentially join a group that already includes Justin Steele, Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly and Jameson Taillon, with Kyle Hendricks still an option down the road if he can continue to progress from the shoulder injury that derailed his 2022 season. 


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