Cubs’ 2023 rotation far from settled

Marcus Stroman has eight years of experience and 195 major league starts.

Kyle Hendricks pitched Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and is expected to make a full recovery from a small tear in his right shoulder capsule.

But the rest of the projected 2023 Cubs’ rotation remains a mystery, with potential free-agent signings, contract, health and experience considerations.

In recent weeks, the Cubs have juggled their rotation, partly to preserve tender arms like left-handed veteran Wade Miley. The more recent trend involves looking at young, in-house candidates such as Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad.

Assad walked four and needed 62 pitches to get through the first two innings of a 4-3 loss to the Rockies on Sunday.

“When you don’t have command, it’s tough to just get into the flow,” manager David Ross said.

But Assad gave the Cubs another chance to evaluate him and earn experience.

Much of the free-agent speculation has centered on a prized shortstop, but signing a frontline starter (especially if Justin Verlander or left-hander Carlos Rodon opt out of their current contracts) would upgrade the rotation, take stress off Stroman and Hendricks (whom are both under contract for 2023), and lower the reliance on Keegan Thompson, Wesneski, Caleb Kilian and left-hander Justin Steele.

Of those four pitchers, Steele has thrown the most innings (119), and he’s currently on the 15-day injured list because of a low back strain.

Ross quipped that the phrase “small sample police” used in staff meetings is accompanied quickly by a makeshift siren noise.

That’s why Ross was cautious in assessing the potential of Wesneski, one day after threw seven innings of three-hit ball and has walked only two while striking out 18 and limiting opponents to a .158 batting average in 152/3 innings since being promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 6.

“I think it will kind of entail like what the offseason acquisitions are,” Ross said. “What roles we need to fill if we go out and get three frontline starters. Maybe he goes to the bullpen, or maybe he’s Triple-A depth. I think there are a lot of guys you can throw in his category.

“He’s definitely proven he’s a big league-caliber pitcher and works that way. His routine is that way, he talks that way, he’s performed that way. I think everything would point to him having a chance to be on the team. I think defining the roles at this point would be silly of me.”

Adrian Sampson, 30, has 40 starts (68 appearances) over parts of five seasons, has a 3.48 ERA this season and the respect of many youngsters for his willingness to help.

Left-hander Drew Smyly and the Cubs have a mutual $10 million option (with a $1 million buyout) for 2023, but Smyly doesn’t mind having his next start moved to Wednesday. Smyly said he’s projected to make three more starts, which would increase his incentives to $1.25 million in addition to his $4.25 million base salary for 2022.

“I don’t mind the extra day of rest at all,” Smyly said. “It’s nice to feel a little more fresh, and it’s fun watching these other guys get some action. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

o Yan Gomes provided the offense for the Cubs Sunday with a two-run single and homer.



Monday: LHP Wade Miley (1-0, 2.89) vs. RHP Edward Cabrera (5-3, 2.70), 5:40 p.m., Marquee Network, WSCR-AM 670

Tuesday: RHP Adrian Sampson (2-5, 3.48) vs. RHP Pablo Lopez (9-10, 3.99), 5:40 p.m., Marquee Network, WSCR-AM 670

Wednesday: LHP Drew Smyly (7-8, 3.48) vs. TBD, 5:40 p.m., Marquee Network, WSCR-AM 670

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