Justin Steele Felt Like He Was “Moving Under Water” Yesterday, Fighting Command Issues
Like a lot of you, I’ve had Keegan Thompson and Brandon Hughes on the mind a lot lately, in terms of them being guys who were of course expected to be on the Opening Day roster, but whose spring performance has been underwhelming following a delayed ramp up process.
I was watching Justin Steele’s outing yesterday against that backdrop, because although we haven’t said it yet, he was also a guy who was of course expected to be on the Opening Day roster, but whose spring performance has been underwhelming following a pause in his ramp up process. Did you forget about that? Steele took a start off at the start of Cactus League play because of “general arm fatigue”? I don’t think there’s even a remote question about his roster spot – he’s lined up to start game two for the Cubs – but I do think it’s fair now to question whether he, too, is still a little behind.
Consider Steele’s comments after yesterday’s outings, which featured some wildness and lower velocities (Marquee):
“I just kinda felt like I was moving under water for most of the day,” Steele said after his outing on Sunday afternoon. “I was fighting myself. Having to constantly make adjustments to the pitch I just threw before. I was just having to battle out there.”
Steele struggled with his control, issuing 5 walks, and his velocity down a tick, sitting roughly 90-91 mph on his fastball, topping off at 92. All that, though, was to how he felt throughout the day, not just on the mound.
“I’m sure anybody — if you run on the treadmill one day and you run on it the next day, you’re probably not gonna feel the exact same as you did,” Steele said. “It was one of them things, kinda felt lethargic just like my body was moving under water and stuff. It was an adjustment trying to get my body going and stuff. Moving forward, it’s something I’ll adjust to.”
I don’t love it. When you pair it with the earlier scratch and what we’ve seen from him this spring – never quite looking sharp – I just don’t love it.
That is not to say Steele is quietly dealing with an injury issue, because – like with Thompson and Hughes – there’s no way the Cubs are putting him out there in these games if there’s even a question. Instead, maybe he just doesn’t feel quite like he would expect to feel 10 days out from the regular season starting? That doesn’t mean he won’t be good to go for April, and it doesn’t mean he won’t keep on ramping up as the season really gets going. That’s not uncommon.
It’s just not the kind of performance or chatter you would, all else equal, like to see in late March. Especially from a guy like Steele, who we know can be so very good, and who is so important the Cubs’ chances this year. Hopefully there’s a page to be turned here, and Steele can pick things up not only for the first week, but then as the season goes on. It’s a long year, and there will naturally be peaks in valleys in how guys feel.