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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Injured finger didn’t deter Justin Steele in a much-needed start for Chicago Cubs: ‘Pain was manageable’

Chicago Cubs’ left-hander Justin Steele instinctively put out his hand in an attempt to trap the ball in the middle.

The ball bounced off it, giving San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth an infield single to two batsmen in Monday’s game. After retiring the next batsman, Steele’s bare-handed effort prompted a visit to a mound from Cubs coach and manager David Ross.

The last thing the Cubs needed was another injury from a starting pitcher. Already pitching with a blister on his left middle finger, Steele’s index finger was hurt by the impact of the ball. When Steele checked out in the middle of the first innings, the skin was cut through his blister so that it would not burst. But his index finger, which was swollen by the end of his debut, was a big problem.

“When I tried to hold that thing bare-handed, I had no idea what I was thinking,” Steele said. “But I was able to ease the pain a little bit from the start. After that innings, I went to the cage and threw some balls into the net. I could feel it a little, ripping at the seams, but I felt the pain was manageable so I just kept going. ,

Steele did not allow the injured index finger to derail. Instead, he delivered one of his best, most efficient starts. Steele restricted the Padres to one run in seven innings, but the offense could not be made in a 4–1 loss against former Cubs U Darvas, their seventh straight.

Had he not been hit by a comeback, Ross would have sent Steele back for the eighth inning as the pitcher needed only 77 pitches to get through a career-high seven innings. Steele extended the strike zone, throwing 60 strikes.

“I don’t know if we knew he was going to go ahead in the second innings, he went out to try and pitched brilliantly,” Ross said. “So, to his credit, that’s kind of a daring outing that realizes where we could be in real trouble with our staff crunch.

“We might have to finger him twice before he started because he was impressive.”

Steele became the first Cubs since August 2020 to pitch in consecutive games of at least seven innings with an earned run or less. That last pitcher? Dervish, who earned the win for San Diego.

How Steele put together a stellar quality debut is as important as the outing. He threw mostly four-seam fastballs, receiving six strikes and eight strikes. The pitch accounted for 70% of his pitches bowled on Monday, the second highest fastball pitch in his 21 career starts. His previous debut on 5 June (71.3%) is the only outing to surpass it. Steel was also mixed in six sinkers.

“When you’re accelerating hitters like this, the secondary stuff always plays out,” Ross said. “You don’t have to be so cool with it. That’s what I saw tonight.”

The rise in the use of fastballs is no coincidence. Steele believes his fastball is directly related to his high strike total.

“Going into my last two starts, I’m really honing in on the fastball command with my four-seam and my sinker,” Steele said. “I’m just trying to command the four-seam and sinker on both sides of the plate and I’m doing a good job of it on my last two starts.”

Steele was confident that his hurt forefinger would not stop him from making his next start. The Cubs currently cannot afford to lose another pitcher with three starters on the injured list. The team is expected to get clarity this week on left-hander Wade Miley, who rehabilitated his shoulder after coming out of IL on Friday in New York.

Beyond the need for a healthy starting pitcher, the Cubs should gain more stability. This is an opportunity for Steel to step up. After his grueling outing in the Cubs’ 20-5 loss to Cincinnati on May 26, Steele has a 2.37 ERA in his last three starts.

“Regardless of all the things that were going on with the rotation and what wasn’t, I definitely wanted to compete,” Steele said. “I felt like my stuff was coming off the bullpen so I definitely wanted to go out there and give them my best stuff. I definitely didn’t want to come out of the game.”

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World Nation News Desk
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