Cubs spring training logbook: Pitching staff slowly starting to take shape

PEORIA, Ariz. — With the Cubs halfway through their Cactus League schedule, is the pitching staff starting to take shape?

No, it’s not a question mark that slipped into the teleprompter.

As the Cubs faced the San Diego Padres on Saturday – with Ron Burgandy seemingly on hand to catch the match – opening day presentation staff can slowly focus.

Trying to project the team’s weapon set for the first set of the regular season will come down to one simple thing: who’s going to be ready?

After the lockout ended, the Cubs added a slew of veteran weapons that can impact the bullpen. But each guy has his own timeline – both in terms of when he got to camp and where he is in his progression for the season.

David Ross isn’t usually into defining specific roles for relievers and that’s even more true right now with so much uncertainty.

“I don’t know if we know exactly who everyone is going to be,” Ross said. “We have to keep letting these guys develop and see what they have. We have a lot of pieces that we keep adding. These guys are really starting to get into the games and take shape.

“We have a few ideas in mind of what it looks like, but we also need to make sure these guys get to where [they need to be].”

Codi Heuer (elbow), Adbert Alzolay (lat) and Brad Wieck (elbow) are already out of the equation due to injury. Newcomer Steven Brault (triceps) is in the same boat.

From there, let’s look at the staff on a case-by-case basis:

Kyle Hendricks made 2 spring appearances, building up to around 50 slots in his last outing. It’s on track to start opening day on April 7.

Marcus Stroman is on a similar schedule to Hendricks and would also be on regular rest for Game 1, but said he is preparing to kick off Game 2 against the Brewers.

Justin Steele and Alec Mills also made 2 Cactus League starts. Keegan Thompson started a game Monday while Drew Smyly made his spring debut Saturday pitching 2 innings.

Smyly faced live hitters Tuesday for the first time all winter and was encouraged to see some swings and misses by Padres hitters in Saturday’s game.

“I was more focused on offensive hitters, but it’s good when you get that feedback and you get swings and misses, especially on pitches that weren’t really my curveball,” he said. -he declares. “I didn’t throw very good curveballs today and that’s usually my bread and butter. So to get pitch balls and low contact on cutters and other pitches was good to see.

Wade Miley has been on his own timeline at camp, as the veteran will kick off his first live BP session on Sunday. Based on how he feels after that, he should have enough lead to get into a Cactus League game before the end of spring, but it’s currently unknown how much he’ll be able to rack up before Opening Day.

Rowan Wick is one of the bullpen survivors of 2021 and will be a late-inning arm for Ross in some capacity. Wick made his 2nd Cactus League appearance on Saturday against the Padres, allowing an unearned run in one inning.

David Robertson (free agent signing) arrived at camp last week but has yet to play in a spring game.

Mychal Givens (free agent signing) is yet to kick a game but first joined the team on Thursday.

Chris Martin (free agent signing) made his spring debut on Thursday and threw a perfect inning.

Jesse Chavez (minor league deal) made a pair of multi-inning appearances, allowing 2 runs in 4 innings.

Daniel Norris (free agent signing) and Robert Gsellman (minor league deal) each kicked off a live BP session against the Cubs hitters on Wednesday and could feature in Sunday’s game at Sloan Park.

Manny Rodríguez ended last season on the IL with shoulder inflammation and got his first taste of game action Thursday with a scoreless 9th inning.

Scott Effross has been the Cubs’ most active pitcher this spring, making his 4th appearance Saturday and hasn’t allowed a run in 5.1 innings. The 28-year-old right-hander impressed in his coffee cup last year and could become a big chunk of the team’s bullpen in 2022.

Michael Rucker picked up his 3rd outing of the spring on Saturday, conceding a home run in his 2 innings of work.

Prospect Ethan Roberts was added to the 40-man roster in the fall and hasn’t allowed a run in 2 Cactus League innings.

In Brief: There’s still a lot to decide about the Cubs’ pitching staff over the next week and a half.

Assessing Suzuki’s debut

Ross didn’t want to over-analyze Seiya Suzuki’s debut on Friday afternoon.

“I saw a nice guy in a Cubs uniform,” Ross said with a smile. “I know he was anxious and nervous to be in front of everyone to enter this pitch. I think everyone would come for the first time.

“It looks good, keep letting him work and get healthy, make sure he’s okay and he’ll be back in there [Sunday].”

Tips

—Frank Schwindel has done well in his recovery from lower back tightness. If all goes well, he could return to the Cubs roster on Sunday at Sloan Park.

—Andrelton Simmons has only appeared in 1 game so far this spring, despite joining the team just before the start of the Cactus League schedule. He served as the designated hitter in that game and had 2 at bats before being lifted for a pinch runner.

“He’s got a little sore shoulder, he’s getting back together, jumping around in things,” Ross said. “I want to make sure we take care of his arms. You see him have the bats, I just want to make sure he’s perfectly healthy.