Steele rocked by Reds, just as Cubs' need for pitching depth picks up

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Justin Steele got shelled, Seiya Suzuki hurt his finger and the Cubs were trounced by the Reds 20-5 on Thursday, splitting the four-game series in Cincinnati.

    Justin Steele got shelled, Seiya Suzuki hurt his finger and the Cubs were trounced by the Reds 20-5 on Thursday, splitting the four-game series in Cincinnati. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/26/2022 7:23 PM

The Cubs have a rare Friday off-day before playing two games on the South Side this weekend.

After that, their pitching depth will be severely tested, with two doubleheaders on the schedule, and 11 games in the next nine days.

 

The pitching staff failed Thursday's early test in Cincinnati. Starter Justin Steele lasted just 2 innings and the Cubs turned to shortstop Andrelton Simmons to wrap up an ugly 20-5 loss.

"I was falling behind, kind of getting predictable," Steele said. "Falling behind, they know a fastball's coming. It kind of seemed like one of those days. Anything I threw that was close, didn't matter how hard it was hit it found a hole."

Steele was coming off two strong starts with a combined 19 strikeouts.

The last-place Reds presented a great chance to keep it rolling, but after the Cubs took an early 3-0 lead, Steele and Scott Effross gave up 8 runs in the third inning and the game quickly turned into a reverse rout.

Simmons was the Cubs' sixth pitcher of the day and he gave up 5 runs in an uninspiring eighth inning. The Cubs could have used Anthony Rizzo to take the mound in this one.

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"Just behind in the count," manager David Ross said of Steele. "A lot of three-ball counts in that inning, you've got to pitch ahead. He seems to have that one inning where he loses command of the baseball a little bit. Sometimes he locks that back in and (other times) he's not able to."

The Cubs have an immediate need for more pitching, but it won't come from the source most fans were expecting. Ross said before the game Caleb Kilian -- the top rated pitching prospect in the organization -- is not in the mix to start the two extra games next week.

Killian has posted a 2.04 ERA in nine starts at Triple A Iowa. There could be a variety of factors in play here -- spots on the 40-man roster, major league service time or maybe the organization doesn't think he's ready yet for a major league debut. The Cubs are planning to start Keegan Thompson on Saturday against the White Sox.

"The stuff's trending up, the velocity's moving up," Ross said of Kilian. "There's just a lot of good things to like about him. I'm sure we'll see him sooner rather than later."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Cubs added a new injury to their long list. Seiya Suzuki suffered a left ring finger sprain when he stumbled into the bag while stealing second in the third inning. Suzuki turned his body to avoid getting hit by the throw and ended up falling onto the base, which is when he jammed the finger.

"He's all right. It seems like he checked out OK," Ross told reporters after the game. "Jammed his finger, X-rays seem to be negative. I think everything's going to be fine. Off tomorrow and reassess on Saturday."

Nico Hoerner and Willson Contreras returned to the starting lineup Thursday after being out with injuries. Both players hit home runs, as did Ian Happ.

After hitting the home run, Contreras was hit by a pitch in his next at-bat. Ross came out to ask why the umpires didn't discuss the intent of the pitch and was ejected for the second straight game for essentially the same reason. He complained after Patrick Wisdom was hit by a pitch late in Wednesday's loss.

In other rehab news, pitcher Alec Mills (low back strain) is expected to throw 3 innings for Iowa on Friday and second baseman Nick Madrigal is planning to begin a rehab assignment with Iowa on Saturday.

The better news lies deeper in the Cubs' farm system. The Class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans won their 10th straight game Wednesday, beating Augusta 8-0 as outfielder Kevin Alcantara had a home run, double and 6 RBI. Myrtle Beach (30-11) has the best record of any minor league team.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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