Chicago Sun-Times

Battle for No. 5 starter continues


MESA, Ariz. — Here’s a reminder not to jump to conclusion­s in the first week of spring-training games. With rookie Hayden Wesneski’s start Wednesday against the Mariners, the Cubs have made it through the rotation once. But it’s too early to say who will claim the fifth rotation spot by Opening Day.

This week, manager David Ross listed the factors he’s weighing as he mulls the decision: strikes, pitchabili­ty, velocities, how the hitters they face are seeing the ball.

Right-hander Adrian Sampson was the first of the Cubs’ fifth-starter candidates to get into a spring game. He piggybacke­d Marcus Stroman’s start in the opener and is expected to slide into Stroman’s spot in the rotation when he leaves to join Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball classic.

Sampson’s first start of the spring included a lot of hard contact. He gave up three home runs to the Giants in 1⅔ innings. But he also was the Cubs’ best pitcher last September, with a .163 ERA.

“Thinking that you deserve things is not a good way to look at stuff,” Sampson said earlier in spring training. “So I’m just trying to keep my head down and try to work on it and get better.”

Rookie Javier Assad was up next, starting in place of Justin Steele (arm fatigue). He had the best results of the trio, throwing two perfect innings.

“They’re strikes, the tempo was there,” Ross said, “already being able to throw secondary pitches for strikes behind in the count, ahead in the count.”

Assad made some mechanical tweaks and embraced a velocity program over the offseason. Both seem to be paying dividends, but it’s hard to say the lasting impact with such a small sample size.

Wesneski sparked headlines last season with a strong introducti­on to the big-leagues and an immaculate inning in his second MLB start.

In two scoreless innings Wednesday, he allowed one hit, one walk (on a clock violation) and struck out four.

“It’s a different mindset,” he said of competing for a rotation spot out of spring training. “But I go back to just doing your job.”

Back on track

Steele’s bullpen Tuesday went well,

Ross said. He’s on track to make his next start, after being scratched from the lineup Sunday.

Steele was originally lined up behind Stroman, who pitched in the Cactus League opener but now is expected to make his first start of the spring Friday.

In other injury news

Third baseman Patrick Wisdom remains day-to-day with a tight left groin. He was out of the lineup Wednesday after being scratched the last two days. He remains day-to-day.

“It was a little bit better yesterday,” Ross said. “But still didn’t want to push it . . . . He feels like if the season was starting he would be playing in a game.”

Right-handed pitcher Jordan Holloway, a non-roster invitee, left his outing Monday with an injury. On Wednesday, the Cubs announced he had sustained a moderate strain to his right oblique.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Hayden Wesneski, a fifth-starter candidate, allowed one hit in two scoreless innings Wednesday.
GETTY IMAGES Hayden Wesneski, a fifth-starter candidate, allowed one hit in two scoreless innings Wednesday.

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