Marcus Stroman Announces Himself as Opening Day Starter
In what is easily one of his least controversial posts in a while, Marcus Stroman tweeted Wednesday evening that he will be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. The righty hasn’t pitched in the Cactus League since March 2 because he was competing for Puerto Rico in the WBC, tossing nine total innings over two starts. It’s long been assumed that he’d be the No. 1 starter, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Beyond thankful and grateful to be named the Opening Day starter for this year. Truly can’t wait to feel the energy in Wrigley. CUBS fans…THANK YOU in advance for the passion and vibe y’all provide each and every day. Can’t wait to compete for you all year! 🗣️ @Cubs
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) March 22, 2023
“Now it’s just a matter of kind of getting my next start in, working on some things in the bullpen,” Stroman said Tuesday in camp. “But like I said, I feel ready, especially after going out there and competing with that adrenaline and that pressure. I feel like I’m ready to go.”
He’s already pretty well stretched out and could push to six innings in his next appearance, which could be Friday against the Rangers at Sloan Park. That would give him five days off before facing the Brewers at Wrigley, so he’d have plenty of time to get back to Chicago and get settled back in.
Perhaps more than in recent years, the actual order of the rotation might not matter at all. Assuming all of them are on top of their respective games, you’d feel pretty good about starting any one of Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele, and Hayden Wesneski. I didn’t forget about Drew Smyly, I just see him as the clear fifth starter out of this group.
On the flip side of praise for their depth, however, is concern that the Cubs lack a true ace they can count on for a guaranteed win every fifth day or in the postseason. While no pitcher can actually win every game he starts, there’s a tremendous mental and emotional advantage in believing your starter is better than his counterpart in a given game. Until someone steps up and proves me wrong, and I sincerely hope that happens, the Cubs don’t have that dude right now.
Stroman could do it if he pitches all season like he did in the second half of 2022, when he went 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA over 16 starts. The strikeout and walk numbers weren’t eye-popping by any stretch, they were actually a little worse than in his first nine starts, but the results were far better. Between trips to the IL with COVID and shoulder inflammation, he went 2-5 with a 5.32 ERA and was clearly not working with his best stuff.
The Cubs need a lot of things to go right this season in order to sneak into the playoffs, and Stroman pitching well for 30+ starts is at the top of the list.