Cubs' Wesneski's dazzling debut chance to dream bigger


A smiling Wade Miley walked into the Cubs’ postgame interview Tuesday night with a light-hearted message.
“I don’t know why you wanna talk to me,” said Miley, who had just made his first start in nearly three months. “You see what that kid just did? I was just the opener.”

The ‘kid,’ of course, is Hayden Wesneski, who pitched anything like but a 24-year-old making his big-league debut under the lights at Wrigley Field in front of 27,600 fans.

And while it was only one outing, it was easy to see why the Cubs are so high on Wesneski as a potential starting rotation building block for their future.

Wesneski, acquired from the Yankees for Scott Effross last month, threw five shutout innings in relief of Miley, allowing just two hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

He’s the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1901) to throw five or more scoreless innings in relief in a debut while allowing two or fewer hits with at least eight strikeouts.

“Today was special,” said Wesneski, the Cubs’ No. 12 prospect (MLB Pipeline). “I couldn't have planned it any better. 

“My friends and family are here. I threw really well. I don't know much more you can ask for it. This is pretty much it, I guess.”

Wesneski opened his big-league career by striking out the first two batters he faced, including reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India.

After a two-out walk, he retired the next 11 batters he faced.

“What impressed me the most was the composure and the pitchability,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “He knows exactly what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. 

“His confidence out there was definitely something that stood out. It's one of those things you look at getting called up and letting the moment hit you. He definitely had a tremendous composure out there.”

As much confidence and composure he exhibited, Wesneski acknowledged he was dealing with nerves and tried to take things one pitch at a time.

“I'm nervous every time I pitch. That's never gonna go away, I don't think,” Wesneski said. “Maybe it will if I pitch long enough.”

If things were going sideways, he had a spot in the ballpark he would look out to and lock back in — the top of the left field foul pole. Wesneski said he has a spot like that in the ballpark each game he pitches.

“I love the way he attacked the zone,” manager David Ross said. “I loved the way he had confidence in multiple pitches, in and out. 

“Got a lot of first-pitch swings there at the back end. We just let him kind of cruise control. Wasn’t a whole lot to do. It was fun just to watch him sit back and have a nice performance.”

Team president Jed Hoyer left the door open on Wesneski making a start over the coming weeks, but right now the Cubs plan to use him in relief as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

He’ll be among over a handful of starting pitchers in camp next spring training, but this final month of the 2022 season presented a chance to get a look at him heading into the winter.

And even after just one month in the organization, he looks like one of the Cubs’ most exciting starting pitching prospects in recent memory.

How soon we could see Wesneski start is a question for another day.

Tuesday at least offered a glimpse and a chance to dream on something bigger.

“I didn’t think Chicago on Tuesday would get this loud,” Wesneski said. “I can’t even imagine with the playoffs and stuff like that. I was so stoked just to get through the ninth inning. 

“I mean, it's a tough inning. I made it harder than it needed to be. But I'm glad I got through it. It got loud and fired me up on Tuesday.”

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