The story of spring training for the Cubs has been right-handed pitcher Hayden Wesneski, who leads the team with 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. Wesneski may be on the verge of locking up the fifth starter spot once the regular season gets underway, but fellow righty Javier Assad is making his own waves playing for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.
Assad, along with Wesneski and Adrian Sampson, entered spring training knowing they were the ones competing for the fifth starter role. While Wesneski has been impressive during his four Cactus League starts, Sampson is now on the outside looking in and Assad is making things difficult for the Cubs, but in a good way.
Mexico beat Puerto Rico 5-4 in Friday night’s quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. Assad was a key figure in Mexico’s comeback victory, coming in when Mexico was behind 4-1 in the fifth inning. Assad pitched 2.2 scoreless innings and only allowed a walk and a Francisco Lindor single, while striking out four batters.
Assad’s first outing in the World Baseball Classic was against the United States and he was even better then. Assad only allowed a Mike Trout single in three scoreless innings, striking out two and walking none.
Before Assad left spring training to go to the World Baseball Classic, he had two outings for the Cubs. Overall, when combining his spring training stats and WBC stats, Assad has been awesome. More importantly, it appears as though he’s added some extra heat to his fastball.
Cubs manager David Ross talked about Assad on Saturday and said the right-handed pitcher is definitely in the mix to make the team on Opening Day.
Earlier this week there was a report in The Athletic that said the Cubs were indeed considering using Assad out of the bullpen.
Via The Athletic.
WITH TWO WEEKS REMAINING IN SPRING TRAINING, MANAGER DAVID ROSS AND PRESIDENT OF BASEBALL OPERATIONS JED HOYER HAVEN’T YET BEGUN THE IN-DEPTH CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE OPENING DAY ROSTER. THEY EXCHANGE IDEAS AND MAINTAIN AN ONGOING DIALOGUE, BUT THE HARDER DECISIONS WON’T BE MADE UNTIL LATER IN MARCH. ASSAD WAS ALREADY IN THE RUNNING TO BE THE NO. 5 STARTER IN THE MAJOR-LEAGUE ROTATION OR THE SIXTH STARTER HELD IN RESERVE AT TRIPLE-A IOWA, BUT THE CUBS ARE ALSO CONSIDERING USING HIM OUT OF THE WRIGLEY FIELD BULLPEN.
I’m not gonna lie to you guys, after watching Assad pitch in the World Baseball Classic, I am in full meatball mode. Right now, if the decision isn’t Assad making the team, then I’d be livid. Screw whether guys have minor league options or not, give me the best talent, the guy who is showing his best against the best, which Assad has done in the World Baseball Classic.
That being said, in a week or two, I could be talked into why it makes sense to keep Assad stretched out and in the rotation at Triple-A, staying ready to fill in at the majors if something goes wrong. But man, you have to love the Cubs pitching depth right now. Assad seems to be making material changes since last season and he may now force himself onto the roster, pushing out some deserving guys in the process.
But like Ross said, this is a great problem to have if you’re the Cubs.