Hoyer addresses state of Cubs before Taillon's debut win

April 19th, 2024

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have dealt with their fair share of adversity in the early going. They’ve blown some leads late, the defense hasn't been all great, and key starters Seiya Suzuki (oblique) and Justin Steele (hamstring) are currently on the IL. But the team can be relatively happy about their standing through three weeks of the season.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer echoed those thoughts when speaking to the media before the team’s 8-3 win over the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.

“The hope is that you get to a point where you are playing cleaner, so to speak, that you get healthy, and then you get on a little bit of a roll,” Hoyer said. “But, so much of what is valuable in this sport is the ability to win series and grind it out when you're not at your best. We haven't played great, and we've gotten through that overly tough stretch well.”

After a rainout on Thursday, Chicago followed up its 5-4 West Coast road trip with one of its best all-around wins of the season. tossed five innings of one-run ball in his first start of the year, the defense was excellent, and the offense erupted for eight runs.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from Hoyer’s pregame talk.

1. Bullpen needs to improve

The Cubs’ bullpen has surely endured some struggles early in the season. It’s an area that Hoyer wants to see the team improve in as the season progresses. After Friday’s game, Chicago had a 4.31 bullpen ERA (13th-worst in MLB).

“We've had a lot of games the bullpen threw really well," Hoyer said. "The bullpen was terrific in Seattle and got us through those games, and we've had some poor ones. So, I don't think you can look at it too critically because there's been a lot of positives, but also no question like there's been some games, there's been some middle innings, there's been some things in the ninth inning that we need to clean up.”

The bullpen has been up and down for Chicago so far, especially in the closer role. Adbert Alzolay has blown three saves already after blowing just three all of last season. But, the team is hoping relievers like Keegan Thompson -- who threw two scoreless innings in Friday’s win -- can continue being a weapon out of the ‘pen.

“Keegan has delivered three very good performances,” manager Craig Counsell said. “The multi-inning relief outings are really valuable.”

2. Taillon’s debut gives Cubs another rotation arm

The Cubs hadn't seen Taillon pitch at all this season, as he battled back from a back injury he suffered in Spring Training. However, his arrival will give Chicago a boost and more flexibility in its rotation.

“I’m excited to get him out there, and the more good starting pitching arms we have, the better,” Hoyer said. “We need all of them, and so far I've been really impressed with the way the rookies have helped us out. Let's get some veterans out there.”

Shota Imanaga (0.00 ERA), Javier Assad (2.16 ERA), and Ben Brown (0.84 ERA in two starts) have all been great for the Cubs this season. Now, adding Taillon back to this rotation is a big boost. On Friday, he gave up just one run on three hits with four strikeouts across five strong frames.

“I thought he was a true pro like he always is,” Dansby Swanson said of Taillon's start. “He was able to command the strike zone [with] multiple pitches. It’s good to see him get off to such a good start.”

**3. Cubs are bouncing back when they need to
**The beginning of the season hasn’t been easy by any means for the Cubs. They blew an 8-0 lead against the Padres on April 8 and then blew another lead late against the D-backs on April 16.

However, the Cubs bounced back and won the next game both times, including a win against the D-backs to close out their West Coast road trip. In Hoyer’s eyes, that speaks to how different this group is in 2024.

“I’ve watched teams come in here the last day of a long road trip [and] not give their best performance,” he said. “Our guys clearly dialed it in and won it against a good team in a place that we've had a lot of tough games. It’s early, but I'm hoping that's a hallmark of this team.”