Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

rafael soriano nationalsTwo important things for the big league Cubs happened in the Tennessee Smokies game last night.

Tsuyoshi Wada (shoulder) made his first rehab start for the Smokies, and he was in the zone all night – the strike zone, I mean. He struck out five over four innings and didn’t walk anyone. He was also getting hit, though, giving up eight of ’em in those four innings, including two homers. There’s not a ton you can take away from that, because he may very well simply have been testing out his shoulder, and not focusing on the results.

The Cubs don’t need a starter for their fifth spot until after the All-Star break, so they can let Wada take another rehab start or two without disrupting anything. Clayton Richard remains on the roster, too.

The other big thing that happened at Tennessee was that Rafael Soriano, signed last month to a minor league deal, made his debut after a long delay in getting to the States from the Dominican Republic. The 35-year-old righty had his fastball velocity in the 88-89mph range, according to the video feed (the last couple years, he’s been more like a 91-92mph guy), but ramping up a bit right now is to be expected.

On the plus side, if Soriano was trying to get results, he sure did: in his scoreless frame of work, he allowed a leadoff double and then struck out three straight batters.

Like Wada, there’s presently no expectation that Soriano will be with the Cubs before the All-Star break. Joe Maddon suggested it could be upwards of eight appearances before Soriano is ready (Tribune). That could put his emergence with the Cubs a week or so after the All-Star break, depending on how regularly he’s ready to appear.

Once he’s ready, the Cubs will have to figure out how they want to incorporate Soriano in the bullpen, which has been dominant for more than a month now. Even if the Cubs stay at a bloated eight relievers, you can give five spots to Motte-Strop-Rondon-Grimm-Ramirez, and at least one lefty spot to James Russell or Travis Wood. That leaves two spots for Soriano, Russell/Wood, and Edwin Jackson. In other words, if there’s not an injury, and even if the Cubs stay at eight relievers, somebody (without options) would be getting the boot.

But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, good to see Soriano getting himself ready.

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