“Can you feel the resistance? Can you feel the thunder?” – Tom Cochrane (of Red Rider), Lunatic Fringe
What a major league debut for Hayden Wesneski! The young man was lights-out in five innings of relief of Wade Miley last night and looks like a future No. 2 starter. Wesneski limited the Reds to two hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in Chicago’s 9-3 win.
Of course, Miley was waiting for him in the clubhouse after the game with a bottle of Ace of Spades champagne. The veteran starter hands them out to rookies making their debuts or after milestone performances. Wesneski achieved both Tuesday night.
Per the Cubs’ media department, Wesneski became the first major-league reliever since at least 1901 to debut with at least five scoreless innings while allowing two hits or fewer and tallying at least eight strikeouts. He also is the first Cubs reliever with at least five shutout innings and eight strikeouts since Tom Phoebus in 1972.
When the rookie was acquired at the trade deadline for Scott Effross, it seemed like a head-scratcher of a trade. Wesenski looks like the real deal, and though he’ll take his fair share of lumps as he matures, he at least proved he belongs in the bigs. His performance was so good it has me already excited for the start of spring training. Even better, it reinforces a quote by Tom Ricketts from about a month ago, when he said the organization plans to attack free agency this winter.
“Our moves over the past year and at the trade deadline have put us in a position of strength in both player and financial currency,” he vowed. “We plan to be very active again this offseason competing in the free agent market.”
A number of first- and second-year Cubs have been making solids contributions for most of the season. That includes Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Christopher Morel, P.J. Higgins, and Seiya Suzuki. Second baseman Nick Madrigal looks like he’s regained his stroke, and reliever Brandon Hughes has looked dominant at times.
Of course, Matt Mervis and Brennen Davis are expected to be big leaguers next year. Mervis could be an option this year, though the Cubs are likely to stick to the original plan. Wesneski provides a different type of excitement. No offense to Miley, but I’d rather see Chicago’s younger arms anchoring next year’s rotation. A veteran presence is always nice, but nothing beats a rookie with an electric arm. We haven’t had that type of anticipation from a rookie starter since Kerry Wood made his debut nearly 25 years ago.
Wesneski is not Wood, however, and won’t punch out batters with the regularity he displayed last night. Still, it was fun to watch and he has a great mound presence. Each time a rookie has success, it feels like the Cubs take a giant leap toward a return to competitive baseball. Pitchers and catchers report in approximately 160 days, see you all in Arizona.
Cubs News & Notes
- Wesneski said he was “stoked” when he found out he was traded to the Cubs last month.
- David Ross said he was impressed with the rookie’s mound composure. Wesneski’s teammates were impressed, too.
- Ian Happ had another home run against the Reds in last night’s game. That makes 26 in six seasons, or roughly 25% of his career output.
- Reliever Codi Heuer had Tommy John surgery six months ago and he’s already throwing.
- The Cubs are considering Ben Zobrist for a role in their baseball operations department, with an eye toward influencing the next competitive team he’s trying to assemble, maybe as early as next spring.
Odds & Sods
This is a fascinating read about Joe Maddon, Perry Minasian, and Alex Tamin if you have access to The Athletic’s subscriber content. I mentioned yesterday that I think a front office reckoning is coming to Anaheim this winter, and now I’m positive.
"Every day we’d get ready for the game and Perry and Alex would come in and they would start talking about how I should use the bullpen that night. Like I haven't done that for the last 40 years."
I wrote about Joe Maddon's appearance on Starkvillehttps://t.co/rGRqkPA5pr
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) September 7, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Stealin’, stealin’, Mama, don’t ya tell on me. I’m stealing back to the way I used to be.” – The Yardbirds, Stealin’, Stealin’
Madrigal and Suzuki are a formidable pair at the top of the lineup. The two combined for three hits and five RBI in last night’s game. Madrigal also stole a base. Nico Hoerner scored three runs and stole his 17th base of the season. The Cubs haven’t had a player steal 20 or more bases since Javier Baez swiped 21 bags in 2018.
- Games Played: 135
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,091
- Total Strikeouts: 1,179
- Strikeout Rate: 23.16%
- Team Batting Average: .241
- Runs Scored: 556
- Runs Allowed: 651
How About That!
The Major League Baseball Players Association asked management Tuesday to voluntarily accept the union as the bargaining agent for minor leaguers.
“Minor league players have made it unmistakably clear they want the MLBPA to represent them and are ready to begin collective bargaining in order to positively affect the upcoming season,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement.
Perhaps a minor league union can save Major League Baseball from itself.
The Mariners have become a legitimate playoff contender.
I just don’t like this. Adults should not be picking off baseballs intended for children.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Wesneski – I’m still amped about his Tuesday night performance.
- Max Muncy – The Dodgers slugger was 3-for-4 last night with a couple of taters and three ribeyes.
- Logan Gilbert – The rookie starter shut down the White Sox last night, hurling six scoreless with nine punchouts as Seattle dropped Chicago 3-nil.
That slider reminds me a lot of the one Matt Clement used to throw.
Hayden Wesneski first MLB strikeout with the slider
18" horizontal movement… only 3 pitchers in MLB average 18" pic.twitter.com/XibLgmNvjN
— Brendan Miller (@brendan_cubs) September 7, 2022
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears worked out former Packers QB Kurt Benkert on Tuesday, though the team did not offer him a contract. Benkert was waived by Green Bay in June.
- Justin Fields and Trevis Gipson are the stars of the latest episode of 1920 Football Drive. You can also catch highlights of Chicago’s three preseason wins in the Jeff Joniak-narrated series
- Juul will pay almost $440 million in a settlement with 34 states over allegations it marketed its products to young people — even though it’s illegal for them to buy the e-cigs.
- Jerry Seinfeld is the model/spokesperson for Kith’s new fall outerwear collection, and the first thing I thought of was the Bill Cosby sweaters of the early 1990s, something Seinfeld himself used to make fun of.
- Speaking of the early 1990s, Michael Jordan is still trash-talking his opponents, except now he does it on the golf course. J.R. Smith is his latest victim.
- Heck, Jordan has the final say on which professional athletes are allowed to rock his famous sneakers during NBA games. Raja Bell couldn’t make the cut, and he still has regrets.
They Said it
- “Today was special. I couldn’t have planned it any better. I mean, my friends and family are here. I threw really well. I don’t know what more you can ask for.” – Wesneski
- “So it’s the actual execution of the game that is being diminished. And listen, I’m into [analytics]. I would want that. But I would want that where I get the information primarily, and the player just gets bits and pieces of that. … I’ll be here to help you with that. But to totally rely on that all the time, to me, you’re taking away from the essence of the game, the ability to play, the ability to make adjustments, the ability to feel what you’re doing out there. And I think [the Angels executives] are all into that.” – Maddon
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Happy Birthday No. 71, Chrissie Hynde! I’m feeling a liiiiiiiiiiitle bit older this morning, especially since I bought the band’s debut album when it was released in 1979.