Cubs’ Justin Steele returns from paternity list, to start vs. Orioles Wednesday

Cubs lefty Justin Steele had barely slept. He’d traveled straight from the hospital to Wrigley Field. And he couldn’t stop smiling about the birth of his son.

“It was crazy,” Steele recounted Tuesday. “I just started crying. It was the greatest day in my life.”

He still wore his hospital wrist band.

“I did not want to leave,” Steele said.

The clubhouse Tuesday afternoon was buzzing in response to Steele’s return from the paternity list. Steele’s fiancee, Libby Murphy, gave birth to their first child on Monday. It also happened to be Steele’s 27th birthday.

“Best birthday present I could ever have,” Steele said. “He’s just amazing. Beautiful baby. Just glad he’s healthy and glad that Libby’s healthy.”

Steele is scheduled to start Wednesday, in the finale of a two-game series against the Orioles at Wrigley Field. To make room on the active roster, the Cubs optioned reliever Anderson Espinoza to Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs pushed back Steele’s start for the birth of his son. After throwing 6 2/3 of one-run ball in Milwaukee last week, Steele headed back to Chicago to be with Murphy in case the baby came early. When the team headed to the West Coast to face the Dodgers, he stayed behind.

“I didn’t want to be across the country,” Steele said, “and then [have] her go into labor or something and then while I’m flying I miss the whole thing.”

Baby boy Steele – the couple is in the process of deciding on a name – was born Monday morning. New father Steele had to leave the hospital briefly that afternoon to throw a bullpen. He said he drove to Wrigley Field for the session and then right back to the hospital.

“It’s been pretty fun so far,” Steele said of fatherhood.” I’ve really enjoyed it, really enjoyed spending time with him, holding him, just talking to him, feeding him. It’s just nothing like anything else.”

In the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon, fellow starting pitcher Marcus Stroman beelined to Steele’s locker to ask about the baby and his family. Steele pulled out his phone to scroll through photos. Steele did the same as he passed veteran reliever David Robertson’s locker a little while later.

Robertson, who returned home for the birth of his third child during spring training, said he warned Steele not to lose his hospital wristband: “You’re going to need that to get back in or they won’t hand you your baby.”

The other fathers in the locker room have been giving Steele advice here and there for the past few months, he said. Other kernels of wisdom have included: Life’s never going to be the same again. You’re never going to sleep.

“It’s amazing,” said third baseman Patrick Wisdom, whose youngest daughter is about a year old. “I still remember it like it was yesterday. So, it’s just sharing the emotions, those feelings that arise, and just to see how excited and elated he is to show me pictures of his newborn. It’s just awesome. It gives me goosebumps right now because it’s so special.”

Some of the truisms Steele’s teammates shared apply to all new parents. But Steele’s line of work presents its own quirks. Players can stay on the paternity list for a maximum of three days.

Steele hopes to get back to the hospital Tuesday night before getting a good night’s sleep in his own bed before his start.

“That stuff takes you back to your own memories of your own kids,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “and especially in-season births and stuff like that. Really unique. So, happy for him and his [fiancee.] We’ll be happy to get him back too tomorrow.”

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