Rafael Ortega leads off in center, followed by Frank Schwindel as the DH and Ian Happ in left. Patrick Wisdom is at third, Matt Duffy is at second, Jason Heyward is in right, and Austin Romine is the catcher. Alfonso Rivas is at first and Sergio Alcántara bats ninth at short.
Justin Steele is making his fourth start of the season, the first three of which have been marked by spotty control and too much contact. Though the lefty has shown flashes of brilliance, he’s been tripped up by stretches in which he gives up hits and runs in bunches. It may be one of those things where he just needs one good start to right the ship, so perhaps that can be tonight.
Going for Minnesota and making his MLB debut is 25-year-old righty Joe Ryan. He’s moved quickly through the minors since being drafted by the Rays in the seventh round in 2018, pitching fewer than 159 innings over two seasons through the Double-A level over his first two years. He then logged 57 innings at Triple-A this season before heading to the Twins organization as part of the return for Nelson Cruz.
After just two starts and nine total innings with Minnesota’s Triple-A team, which followed the conclusion of his participation in the Summer Olympics, Ryan has been tabbed to take the hill against the Cubs. He has racked up 326 Ks in 226 minor league innings (12.98 K/9), which is impressive enough on its own, but it looks even better against just 53 walks (2.11 BB/9).
That comes from using his mid-90’s four-seam as a swing-and-miss pitch, a rare feat in today’s game. He gets good movement on the pitch, hence the strikeouts, though his reliance on it may get him into trouble at the highest level. Ryan also has a mid-80’s slider that can be really deceptive from his three-quarter delivery, especially given the accuracy and movement of his fastball.
He could be very good if the curveball and changeup come along, but scouts don’t believe those pitches are real weapons yet. If they do work well, even if it’s just for one game, the Cubs could be in trouble. I’m interested to see whether the fastball can play against big leaguers — yeah, yeah, I know — and whether relying on a more repeatable pitch eliminates the potential for debut jitters.
We’ll find out when the game starts at 7:10pm ET on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 1, 2021