Cubs’ 2023 rotation far from settled

Aside from Marcus Stroman and Kyle Hendricks, there’s no clear picture about who will be part of the rotation next season.

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Cubs starter Javier Assad  pitches in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.

Cubs starter Javier Assad pitches in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Marcus Stroman has eight years of experience and 195 major-league starts.

Kyle Hendricks pitched Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and is expected to make a full recovery from a small tear in the capsule of his right shoulder.

But the rest of the projected 2023 Cubs’ rotation remains a mystery, with potential free-agent signings, contracts, health and experience factoring into it.

In recent weeks, the Cubs have juggled their rotation, partly to preserve tender arms such as that of Wade Miley. The more recent trend involves looking at young, in-house candidates, such as Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad.

Assad walked four and needed 62 pitches to get through the first two innings of a 4-3 loss Sunday to the Rockies.

‘‘When you don’t have command, it’s tough to just get into the flow,’’ manager David Ross said.

But Assad earned experience and gave the Cubs another chance to evaluate him, a trait that is essential for the franchise to take a significant step toward moving into playoff consideration.

Much of the free-agent speculation has centered on a prized shortstop, but signing a front-line starter — especially if Justin Verlander and/or Carlos Rodon opt out of their current contracts — would upgrade the rotation, take stress off Stroman and Hendricks and lessen the reliance on pitchers such as Keegan Thompson, Wesneski, Caleb Kilian and Justin Steele.

Steele has thrown the most innings (119) among those four pitchers, and he’s on the 15-day injured list because of a strained lower back.

Ross quipped that the phrase ‘‘small-sample police’’ used in staff meetings is accompanied quickly by a makeshift siren noise.

That’s why Ross was cautious in assessing the potential of Wesneski, one day after he threw seven innings of three-hit ball Saturday. He has walked two, struck out 18 and limited opponents to a .158 batting average in 15‰ innings since being promoted Sept. 6 from Triple-A.

‘‘I think it will kind of entail what the offseason acquisitions are, what roles we need to fill if we go out and get three front-line starters,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Maybe [Wesneski] goes to the bullpen, or maybe he’s Triple-A depth. I think there are a lot of guys you can throw in his category.

‘‘He’s definitely proven he’s a big-league-caliber pitcher and works that way. His routine is that way, he talks that way, he’s performed that way. I think everything would point to him having a chance to be on the team. I think defining the roles at this point would be silly of me.’’

Adrian Sampson has made 40 starts (68 appearances) over parts of five seasons, has a 3.48 ERA this season and has earned the respect of many youngsters for his willingness to help.

Drew Smyly and the Cubs have a mutual $10 million option (with a $1 million buyout) for 2023, but Smyly doesn’t mind having his next start moved to Wednesday. He said he’s projected to make three more starts, which would increase his incentives to $1.25 million in addition to his $4.25 million base salary for 2022.

‘‘I don’t mind the extra day of rest at all,’’ Smyly said. ‘‘It’s nice to feel a little more fresh, and it’s fun watching these other guys get some action. It doesn’t bother me at all.’’

Yan Gomes provided the offense for the Cubs with a two-run single and a solo home run.



Monday: LHP Wade Miley (1-0, 2.89) vs. RHP Edward Cabrera (5-3, 2.70), 5:40 p.m., Marquee Network, WSCR-AM 670

Tuesday: RHP Adrian Sampson (2-5, 3.48) vs. RHP Pablo Lopez (9-10, 3.99), 5:40 p.m., Marquee Network, WSCR-AM 670

Wednesday: LHP Drew Smyly (7-8, 3.48) vs. TBD, 5:40 p.m., Marquee Network, WSCR-AM 670

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