Stroman has everything working in intrasquad game

Steele laughs off comebacker to backside off bat of Suzuki

April 4th, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- With the start of the season looming, Cubs starter Marcus Stroman has been searching for the right rhythm with his mechanics. At Sloan Park on Sunday afternoon, there was a good indicator that the pitcher is getting closer.

At multiple turns through an 85-pitch outing in an intrasquad sim game, Stroman altered the pace of his delivery. He deployed a hesitation move after his initial leg kick, and then drove forward to finish off the pitch. That was a positive sign for Stroman.

"I wouldn't do that if I wasn't feeling good," Stroman said. "When I feel good, all the variations kind of start to come out. It's something I definitely mess with as the season progresses, and you'll definitely see a lot."

In his final appearance of Spring Training, Stroman simulated five innings against a mix of Cubs prospects and Major League batters. The right-hander struck out eight, walked one and allowed one hit among the 22 batters he faced.

Among the big leaguers who stepped in to face Stroman were Frank Schwindel, Nick Madrigal, Jason Heyward, Jonathan Villar and Seiya Suzuki. That group collectively finished 1-for-10 with four strikeouts and one walk against the starter.

Stroman said he is now built up to handle a 100-pitch outing at the outset of the regular season. Cubs manager David Ross also liked what he saw from Stroman, whose next outing projects to fall on Friday against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

"He felt good about it," Ross said. "Real depth to the stuff. Looking from the side, it looked like he knew where he wanted to go with it. Got secondary stuff over for strikes. Started to mix in both sides of the plate with offspeed, as well. He looked pretty clean and ready to go."

Steele shakes off Suzuki scare

Pitching opposite Stroman in Sunday's intrasquad game was Cubs lefty Justin Steele. At one point during his performance, Suzuki sent a hard line drive back up the middle and off the pitcher's backside.

"Right off the glute," Stroman said with a laugh. "The gluteus maximus."

Steele had a good sense of humor about the bruising, especially since the lefty managed to retrieve the ball and fire it to first in time for an out. Over four simulated innings, Steele struck out two, walked one and built his pitch count up to 71 ahead of the season.

Steele appreciated the controlled setting for his start, because it allowed him to focus on a retooled changeup that he plans on utilizing this season. He was pleased with the results and was able to laugh off the scare involving Suzuki.

"I want to know how hard it was hit, because it stung, for sure," Steele quipped. "Sometimes, you've got to wear it for an out, I guess. He came up to me immediately and was apologizing. I was like, 'No, that's what you're supposed to do.' He hit it hard."

Worth noting

• During the Cubs' night game against the Guardians in Goodyear, Ariz., veteran reliever Jesse Chavez got the start. The righty worked three shutout innings, giving him a 1.80 ERA in five appearances this spring. Chicago added Chavez to the roster on Saturday.

"He was already pretty stretched out when he got here," Ross said. "So, his length, his ability to eat innings, his presence, the veteran status, he's just good for a lot of reasons on this team."

• Reliever Mychal Givens had been slowed by unspecified soreness, per Ross, but the manager was encouraged by the righty's outing against the Angels on Saturday. Givens struck out three and walked one in one inning.

"The velocity was up from what I heard. Good signs," Ross said. "Got to get some real work in. It wasn't easy on him. It was easy early on and then he hit a little bit of struggles. Walks a guy, finds his rhythm, gets out of that. It was good to see."


"That's really hard to do. I told him that. That messed me up even as a catcher. That's pretty good body control. This guy is an unbelievable athlete. The way he can manipulate his body to get in the right position, and feel with his core during his windup, is pretty impressive to me. That stuff's really hard for hitters." -- Ross, on Stroman's delivery variations