Cubs lefty Justin Steele expressed confidence better outings are ahead after a bad start Wednesday night against the Rockies.
Steele pitched just 3 2/3 innings while throwing 73 high-stress pitches. He was in trouble throughout the outing.
"He had to work really hard today," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I've seen him better."
Steele walked leadoff hitter Connor Joe on five pitches in the first inning before serving up a home run to Brendan Rodgers, the next batter — leaving a 94-mph fastball over the middle of the plate.
“I wish my fastball command would have been a little bit better tonight,” Steele said. “I made some mistakes over the plate. I just wasn’t commanding to both sides of the plate.”
Steele worked around a leadoff walk in the second, and back-to-back singles to open the third, to toss back-to-back scoreless innings. He allowed a pair of singles to start the fourth, striking out the next two batters before Ross went to the bullpen.
Two of his inherited runners scored when Trevor Megill gave up a grand slam.
“The breaking ball just didn’t look sharp today," Ross said of Steele. "Couldn’t get a lot of bites, some foul balls off that. The stuff was a tick down — 92s and 93s a little bit.
“I don't know what that factor is since coming back, but he looked a little more electric in Cincinnati, for me.”
Steele allowed two earned runs in his last start against the Reds, throwing four high-stress innings.
“It’s going to come where everything links up and works into a six-inning, seven-inning outing,” Steele said, “and I’m keeping my pitch count down and working effectively.”
The Cubs better hope so. They’re banking on at least one of Adbert Alzolay, Keegan Thompson and Steele sticking in the rotation to make this rebuild work anytime soon.
Alzolay has had mixed results this season (5.16 ERA, 21 starts) and had a rough rehab start with Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, allowing four runs on three hits in two innings.
Thompson makes his third career start (second since joining the rotation last week) on Friday against the White Sox.
Steele has allowed nine earned runs in 12 2/3 innings in three starts, including a season-high four runs Wednesday, the shortest of the three.
“I think there's a huge upside potential in there," Ross said. "But tonight, I don't think it was his best."