Cubs lefty Justin Steele to start Sunday at Diamondbacks

Cubs lefty Justin Steele didn’t have to miss a start for the thumb injury he sustained against the Dodgers last week.

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PHOENIX – The Cubs’ probable pitching list has been littered with TBDs the past week, but on Saturday, the Cubs filled in the latest. 

Cubs lefty Justin Steele is scheduled to start in the Cubs’ series finale against the Diamondbacks on Sunday. Steele last pitched a week ago, leaving the game after the fourth inning with left thumb soreness. 

“We try not to wait too long to get these guys in but also [wanted to] make sure his thumb felt good,” Cubs manager David Ross said Saturday. 

Too many days between starts means a risk of “rust,” as Ross puts it. He pointed to Drew Smyly’s start last week against the Dodgers, which was pushed back when he went on the bereavement list. 

Smyly allowed three runs, two earned, in 4 ⅓ innings against the Dodgers. Then on Friday at Arizona, with five days between starts, he threw six innings for the first time this season. 

Steele started feeling the thumb soreness throwing his slider in the fourth inning of his start last week against the Dodgers. He said he threw that pitch in his bullpen Friday, and it didn’t give him any issues. 

“He did a really nice job his last start against a really good team until that thumb stuff popped up,” Ross said. “So, continue to build off that, pound the strike zone, no free passes, knowing how to handle those moments I think is really important for his development and to keep getting better.”

Veteran lefty Wade Miley was the Cubs’ other option to start on Sunday after making his season debut on Tuesday. The Cubs have yet to announce their probable starters for their next series, at home against the Pirates, but starting Miley on Sunday would give him five days between starts. 

The Cubs still don’t have a timeline for the return of right-hander Marcus Stroman or reliever David Robertson. The team placed both on the injured list without a designation, which usually means a COVID-19 related move. 

“I know they’re playing catch together,” Ross said, “so I think they’re feeling a bit better.”

‘I think he’ll come back strong’

The Cubs are expecting a lengthy absence for 2020 first-round draft pick Ed Howard, who sustained a serious hip injury trying to avoid a tag running to first base earlier this week.

“Obviously, there’s never good timing for an injury like that,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Saturday. “But it’s a shame, he worked so incredibly hard this winter, he got stronger than anyone at our camp this winter, and you look at his exit velocities, he brought his strikeout rate down, he’s been playing his typical good defense. It’s a shame that his season’s going to be cut short.”

Howard, the Cubs’ No. 14 prospect as ranked by mlb.com, was on a hot streak when he sustained the injury, batting . 333 over his past nine games.  

“But he’ll work hard, and the attitude has been really good despite the fact that he’s really bummed out about the injury,” Hoyer said. “… I think he’ll come back strong.” 

Nuts and bolts

Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner (right ankle sprain) “tested the waters,” as he put it, on Saturday, taking some easy ground balls in the outfield before Saturday’s game. Outfielder Seiya Suzuki returned to the starting lineup Saturday after tweaking his ankle on a base Monday at San Diego. He pinch hit once between the injury and Saturday.

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