Chicago Cubs Lineup (3/24/23, Late SS Game): Morel Leads Off, Barnhart Bats Second, Sampson Starting

The Cubs kicked off their Friday split-squad action with their Opening Day starter and they’ll conclude it with a pitcher who’s battling to maintain a spot on the staff. Adrian Sampson came into camp the presumed clubhouse leader for the fifth starter’s spot, but he’s been surpassed by Hayden Wesneski and perhaps Javier Assad over the last few weeks.

That’s more about Wesneski displaying some of the nastiest stuff we’ve seen from a Cubs starter in a long time, making it clear he needs to be on the bump every fifth day. Meanwhile, Assad had his fastball in the upper 90s pitching for Mexico in the WBC and struck out several members of Team USA’s lineup. It didn’t help that Sampson allowed eight homers in his first 8.1 innings this spring.

He looked great the last time out, striking out six with one walk and allowing just one earned run on two hits over 4.1 innings, but it’s probably too little too late. Sampson could end up in the bullpen or the Cubs could option him and keep him stretched out in Iowa to provide rotation depth. Neither seems like an ideal option, so there’s also the possibility of trading him to a team that needs a little help. It’s a tough spot for a guy who rebounded so well over the past two seasons after struggling early in his career.

See lineup details below.

The Guardians are led by a familiar name to Cubs fans as Zach Plesac, nephew of former Cubs great Dan Plesac, takes the mound. Not known for his strong decision-making skills, Plesac was suspended in 2020 for violating COVID protocols when he partied with buddies in Chicago and missed several starts last September due to a hand injury suffered when he punched the mound after giving up a home run. That’s not to be confused with the time he broke his thumb in May of ’21 while “aggressively ripping off his shirt” following a poor outing.

With allowance for the short season, Plesac looked like an ace in the making across eight starts as he put up excellent numbers across the board. His performance hasn’t been nearly as sharp over the past two seasons, however, and the injuries have cost him over two months of playing time. He has pitched well of late and went 6.1 innings with just one earned run the last time out, so the Cubs could have a tough matchup on their hands.

Let’s just hope those hands don’t punch anything or aggressively rip off any clothing. First pitch from Goodyear Ballpark is set for 8:05pm CT on Marquee.

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