Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/16/22): Ortega DH, Villar 2B, Leiter Gets Heavier Gig

The Cubs started out hot Friday night, singling their way into an early lead and showing that grounders can still produce runs if they’re placed well. But the Rockies showed that power still rules the day, or the evening in this case, as they rode extra-base hits to a victory. Tonight’s game will ensure the winner at least a split of the series, but the Cubs may have to get creative to make that happen.

That’s because Mark Leiter Jr. is making his first MLB appearance since 2018 and first start since 2017. Acquired by the Cubs on a minor league deal, the righty was not on the 40-man roster prior to Saturday so 2019 MiLB Pitcher of the Year Cory Abbott was DFA’d to make room. Leiter looked good in one start for the Iowa Cubs, striking out seven with just one walk in four innings of work.

It’s hard to know exactly what he’ll be throwing in this one because there’s very little information out there on him. He’s 31 years old, so the fastball probably isn’t coming in any harder than the 91 mph it had previously averaged, though we’ve seen other veterans crank up the velo over the offseason. Leiter previously threw his four-seam, sinker, and splitter about 25% apiece, with a cutter and curve making up the rest.

There are, however, differences in tracking services that differentiate between splitter and change while also breaking up the cutter and slider. We’ll find out soon enough how varied his repertoire really is.

Rafael Ortega is leading off as the DH, followed by Jonathan Villar at second, and Willson Contreras behind the plate. Villar and Contreras have both been crushing pitches and could offer a nice 1-2 punch near the top of the order. Ian Happ cleans up in left, Frank Schwindel is at first, and Seiya Suzuki is back in right after a day off from the field.

Jason Heyward is in center, Patrick Wisdom is trying to build on his pair of doubles last night at third, and Nico Hoerner is the shortstop. The Cubs desperately need more power to go with the added contact, but this matchup isn’t conducive to dingers

Antonio Senzatela is on the mound for the second time this season after failing to earn a decision after 3.1 innings of work against the Dodgers. He allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, and walked one without getting a K. That’s not uncommon for Senzatela, who has the fourth-lowest K-rate in baseball (15.6%) since debuting in 2017.

It’s pretty wild that he’s been able to pitch as well as he has, particularly given a very limited pitch mix that is made up largely of just two different offerings. The fastball and slider have combined for over 85% of his pitches, with the curve and change splitting the difference, but Senzatela keeps the ball down and gives up very few home runs. He’s also pitched to remarkably even splits, like almost identical.

Left- and right-handed batters have the same .280 average against his and lefties slug just .001 better, so it’s only a few extra walks to the lefties that separate them out. What’s more, his home-road splits also very similar. There is, however, a big difference with righties hitting much better against Senzatela at Coors.

First pitch is set for 7:10pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.

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