Cubs Pitching Notes: Farrell Filling In, Assad’s Special Debut, Padilla Arrives

With a couple MLB debuts yesterday and a fill-in starter coming tonight for the Chicago Cubs, there were some pitching items to touch on this morning …

Luke Farrell’s scratch at Iowa this weekend was indeed in preparation for a possible start this week with the big league team. The Cubs held back on making things official until after the double-header – presumably they wanted to make sure nothing totally wonky happened that would alter their plans – but now it’s for sure, Farrell will start tonight for the Cubs against the Cardinals.

Farrell, 31, has pitched with the Rangers and Twins since he was last with the Cubs in 2018, and has posted a 5.03 ERA over 59.0 innings at Triple-A Iowa this year. It’s a pure fill-in situation for the Cubs, who decided against having a prospect come up and take the start.

We’ll see if it’s Javier Assad who goes back down to make room for Farrell, or if Assad gets another start. The 25-year-old rookie made his debut yesterday, with 4.0 solid innings of work. The command wasn’t there, and that’d be an issue if he were going to have long-term success, but in your debut, the baseline threshold is just showing that you have some big league caliber pitches and that you aren’t totally overcome by the moment. So far, so good on Assad, who could stick on the Cubs 40-man roster all offseason in anticipation of him being a depth starter for the team in 2023.

Assad’s first career strikeout came against Albert Pujols, which was nothing Assad could have seen coming (Cubs.com): “It’s something that I never would have imagined,” Assad said via team translator Will Nadal on Tuesday afternoon. “Pujols is a great player. We all know the historic player that he is. I was 3 years old when he debuted. So I never would’ve imagined that I would’ve been facing him — let alone getting that strikeout.”

A nice post-game moment for Assad, who was really taking things in throughout his appearance:

This is a fun list of names, even if it doesn’t actually say much about future success on the horizon for Assad (remember Ryan O’Malley?!?):

Reliever Nicholas Padilla also made his big league debut yesterday, throwing 1.2 innings in game two. He also got a pretty special first career strikeout:

Overall, Padilla went fly out, walk (very close pitches), groundball single, soft lineout, walk (one close pitch), groundout, wild pitch, hard double, fly out.

All in all, it looked like a successful debut by those baseline things we look at. The slider (it’s almost a curve) is clearly big league caliber, and his base fastball actually registers as a cutter at 93 mph. He was thrown into a tough spot, too, and didn’t wilt. So check those boxes. Given his status as a guy you MIGHT want to keep on the 40-man all offseason, I really hope he stays up and gets long looks the rest of the way. He was technically the 27th man yesterday, though, so I’m not sure he will stay up.

I just want to say again what a scouting and development win Padilla is for the Cubs. The Cubs took him in the MINOR LEAGUE phase of the Rule 5 Draft in 2020, after he was unable to pitch in the pandemic season. Then Padilla managed just 1.2 innings in 2021 before breaking out in 2022. I think about the scouting that would’ve gone into identifying a low-level relief prospect like Padilla in the first place, and then developing him over the course of multiple years so that he could become a big league-adjacent pitcher. Even if he never becomes “A Guy,” this is a huge win. Because he does have a CHANCE to be “A Guy”!

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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