Justin Steele Named Opening Day Starter, Cubs Trim Spring Roster to 47

These are two of the most obvious news items you’ll find today, which is really saying something for the middle of spring training. First up, Craig Counsell announced Saturday morning that Justin Steele will be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter when the 2024 campaign opens on March 28 against the Rangers. We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the rotation shapes up, but Steele has been No. 1 for quite some time now.

Shōta Imanaga would follow Steele if I had my druthers, but a number of factors including seniority and handedness might see Kyle Hendricks getting the nod. Slotting Imanaga third ahead of Jameson Taillon — who makes his first spring start on Saturday — and possibly Jordan Wicks would give the rotation some balance. Counsell doesn’t seem like a guy who does things based on conventional baseball wisdom, though, so he may have different thoughts.

When he takes the mound in Arlington, Steele will be the first lefty drafted by the Cubs to start on Opening Day. That nugget comes via baseball stats and history guru Christopher Kamka, who Marquee was able to pluck away from NBC Sports Chicago in a coup nearly as big as the Cubs getting Counsell away from Milwaukee. In any case, it’s wild that an organization that’s been around as long as the Cubs hasn’t drafted and developed a lefty for the top of the rotation.

Our second bit of news is that the spring roster has been reduced to 47 after three non-roster invitees — righties Chris Clarke and Sam McWilliams and lefty Brad Wieck — were assigned to minor league camp. The remaining group consists of 24 pitchers (six NRIs), 11 infielders (three NRIs), six outfielders (one NRI), five catchers (three NRIs), and one utility player.

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