Cubs-Rangers Opening Day starting pitchers: Steele vs. Eovaldi

March 19th, 2024

Opening Day will be bigger in Texas this year. This will not just be the start of another campaign, but when the Cubs roll into Globe Life Field on March 28, it will be a chance for the Rangers and their fans to celebrate the team’s World Series triumph one more time.

Then, it will be back on the long road to October for both ballclubs.

“It's nice to be able to come in here and kind of turn the page,” Rangers starter said. “We accomplished what we accomplished last year, but we’ve gotta come in this year with that mindset of doing it again. Everything's different this year. We’ve got the target on our back. The teams are coming out for us. We’ve gotta be ready to go.”

The Rangers will hand the ball to Eovaldi, who went 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA in his six postseason outings en route to his second career ring. The Cubs will counter with lefty , who enjoyed a breakout showing in a ‘23 season that ended with the North Siders narrowly missing the playoffs down the stretch.

“It's a new group, man. That's how I see it,” said Cubs manager Craig Counsell, who was brought on board over the offseason. “Every year it’s a new group. And every year we figure out what happened and that's supposed to tell us what we're going to be. I think we get to write the story. We're going to write the story about what this Cubs team is going to be.”

Rangers: RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Previous Opening Day starts: Three (2020-22, all with Boston)
2023 Season: 12-5, 3.63 ERA, 25 starts, 144 innings, 132 strikeouts, 47 walks

With Jacob deGrom (Tommy John) and Max Scherzer (herniated disc) both sidelined to begin the season as they rehab from surgery, the Opening Day honors will be handed to Alvin, Texas, native Eovaldi. He will be the club’s 14th Opening Day starter since 2010.

The right-hander became the pseudo-ace of the Rangers’ staff last season when deGrom landed on the injured list in May, and he’s looked every bit an ace ever since. In 2023, he earned his second career All-Star bid, while ultimately being the rock that held the pitching staff together throughout the postseason with his clutch performances in each round.

Cubs: LHP Justin Steele
Previous Opening Day starts: None
2023 Season: 16-5, 3.06 ERA, 30 starts, 173 1/3 innings, 176 strikeouts, 36 walks

This is a passing-the-torch moment for the Cubs. Veteran Kyle Hendricks -- the last remaining piece to the ‘16 World Series team on the active roster -- was Chicago’s Opening Day starter from ‘20-22. He was unable to make that assignment in ‘23, as he came back from a shoulder injury and Marcus Stroman got the nod. Now, the ball goes to Steele, who is a homegrown pitcher (fifth round of 2014 Draft) who took a long road to the top of the rotation.

“Clearly, no one more deserving,” Hendricks said of Steele getting the nod. “I'm so happy for him.”

Steele, 28, was in the conversation to start the All-Star Game for the National League last year and ended up finishing fifth in voting for the league’s Cy Young Award.

During one particularly strong 16-start stretch from the end of May and into September, the lefty went 10-1 with a 2.30 ERA. His first win of the year came against the Rangers on April 8, when he held the eventual champions to one run over six frames.