Nothing to see here, folks.
Not Friday at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs got back to their losing ways in a 6-2 game against the lowly Royals.
Not with playing-out-the-string Zach Davies — the subpar veteran starter who in no way, shape or form is part of the Cubs’ wide-open future — on the hill.
Not even with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flying for hours of practice in the skies above the ballpark ahead of lakefront air shows Saturday and Sunday.
OK, fine, the Blue Angels were kind of cool to watch. They certainly were more entertaining than one of two games on Friday’s major-league schedule involving opponents with losing records.
The air shows, by the way, are part of mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “Open Chicago” initiative to safely and fully reopen the city. Fully refilling the stands at Wrigley is another matter altogether. By the looks of the crowd, the ballpark won’t be rocking again for quite some time.
But if there’s one thing about this Cubs team that’s worth watching the rest of this lost season, it’s the trio of 26-year-old rookie starting pitchers who potentially could fit nicely into whatever president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer is calling this rebuild.
Right-hander Adbert Alzolay has been in the rotation all season, taking his lumps — he’s 4-13 with a 5.16 ERA — but flashing enough ability to remain interesting. Alzolay is on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring but making progress toward a return. He threw a bullpen session Friday that went well, according to manager David Ross, and added some light running and agility work on the field.
Left-hander Justin Steele, a fifth-round pick by the Cubs in 2014, is two starts into his own audition after making 11 appearances out of the bullpen and then getting stretched out over several weeks at Triple-A Iowa.
And now comes righty Keegan Thompson’s turn to show what he’s got. Thompson, a third-round pick by the Cubs out of Auburn in 2017, made 27 relief appearances this season before being sent down to Iowa to get stretched out for starter’s duty. After four scoreless starts — none of which lasted longer than 4⅓ innings — against Triple-A foes, he’ll face the Royals on Saturday.
“When you have these guys go down there and dominate — which they should — and [with] the success [Thompson] has had here, and just getting his pitch count up, it’s a good indication that as soon as they’re ready to be able to start, to give some length, they’re ready,” Ross said.
Alzolay, Steele and Thompson are all homegrown pitchers, a wonder in itself given Hoyer and former boss Theo Epstein’s unfortunate track record with the Cubs of drafting and developing starters. Any of the three could work out. Any of the three might not. But at least they’re in the hunt for important roles with the team in 2022, when Kyle Hendricks will be at or near the front of the rotation, Alec Mills might be at or near the end of it and, well, who the heck knows other than that?
It’s a three-headed audition. It might even beat watching planes buzz past on their way someplace else.
“That is definitely a positive and something we look forward to seeing, how much success they can have in the starting rotation,” Ross said. “Because they’ve already done a nice job out of the bullpen.”
Davies (6-10) gave up four home runs, two of them to All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, as a two-game Cubs winning streak met a quiet end. Davies has only one win since late June, not what the Cubs had in mind when they acquired him from the Padres in the Yu Darvish trade.
There’s some pretty clear writing on the wall.
“It’s a transition period for the Cubs,” he said. “I’ve been a part of that before. I’m going through it now with these guys. . . . And this is a good time for guys to come up and prove themselves and give themselves a big-league job for next year.”