Cubs confirm the obvious: Wesneski will be in rotation

Maybe this was already obvious, but Cubs manager David Ross officially named right-hander Hayden Wesneski the fifth starter Saturday morning.

Wesneski has been solid this spring, with a 2.12 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 17 innings. After being acquired in a trade with the Yankees last summer, Wesneski made his major league debut with the Cubs and posted a 2.18 ERA in six appearances.

"He seems to be right where he left off, throwing the ball really well, touched 97 the other day, so the arm strength is there," Ross told reporters in Arizona. "Executing pitches, he's had a really, really nice spring, so he's earned it."

Wesneski will join Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Jamison Taillon and Drew Smyly in the opening week rotation. Stroman has already been named the starter for Thursday's Opening Day at Wrigley Field against Milwaukee.

Ross was asked how Wesneski responded to the news.

"He was really excited," Ross said. "Head in the hands and I think a little bit of relief, but I also know he has a quiet confidence in himself. I think he was just relieved to hear that he's earned that and all the hard work pays off.

"Then he circles back and he's ticked about a walk or something in his last start. He knows this is just the start of something much bigger and this is our steppingstone to continue to get better throughout the season and continue to perform better."

Asked about Javier Assad, Ross said the right-hander is still in the mix for a bullpen role. Assad gave up 2 runs in 3 innings of work on Friday against Texas, but he's had a nice spring, both for the Cubs in spring training and Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

The question is whether the Cubs would keep him on the roster in a long relief role, when they also have Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay. Maybe they'd rather have Assad open the season in Iowa as a starter, ready to move up if needed. Like Wesneski, Assad made a successful major league debut last summer, with a 3.11 ERA in nine appearances.

The Cubs trimmed their major league roster to 39 on Saturday, sending pitcher Adrian Sampson to Iowa and pitcher Vinny Nittoli to minor league camp. Sampson had a tough spring with an 8.66 ERA in 17 innings.

The Cubs started veteran lefty Roenis Elias against the Angels on Saturday and he gave up 2 runs in 3⅔ innings. The Cuba native signed with the Cubs after dominating the Dominican winter league. He appeared in seven games for Seattle last year after having Tommy John surgery in 2021.

Saturday's lineup looked like it was built to help settle final roster spots. Christopher Morel started in right field, Mike Tauchman in center. The infield featured Nick Madrigal, Miles Mastrobuoni, Zach McKinstry and Edwin Rios.

Tauchman, a Fremd High School grad, doubled and stole two bases. Yan Gomes and Patrick Wisdom homered, while Morel doubled twice.sw

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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