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Cubs 5, Padres 4: Nerves of Steele and the Young folks

A lefty makes his case for the rotation, and a minor leaguer helps win the game.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — I’m going to try to hit the high notes here and tell you the most important stuff about the Cubs’ 5-4 win over the Padres at Sloan Park in front of 11,861 on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

First, Justin Steele, who is in the mix for the fifth starter spot in the Cubs rotation this year (along with seemingly several dozen others) and who had flashes of brilliance late in 2021, threw two very good innings in this game, retiring six of the seven Padres he faced. Some of them were actual major league players, too.

Seriously, though, Steele looked good. He had good mound presence, walked one and struck out two and was never in any trouble.

Jesse Chavez, who’s trying to make this team as a NRI — not so much. Chavez threw two innings and allowed a pair of solo homers, which clearly wasn’t in his plan. He didn’t allow a single homer in 30 outings with the Braves last year, so ... concerning? Or just the first spring start? Probably the latter.

The Cubs got on the board first in this game, in the bottom of the second inning, on a home run by Alfonso Rivas [VIDEO].

Rivas can hit; we saw that last September. With Frank Schwindel ensconced at first base, Clint Frazier (and others) set to DH and a whole passel of outfielders, Rivas might not have a spot on this team. Perhaps he might have value to some other ballclub.

The Cubs almost had another homer in that second inning off the bat of Alexander Canario, who was one of the two players who came over in the Kris Bryant deal. Former Cub Trayce Thompson robbed Canario [VIDEO].

Brennen Davis, who’s going to be the Cubs center fielder someday, gave the ballclub a 4-2 lead in the fourth with this three-run blast [VIDEO].

The Padres tied it up in the fifth with a two-run homer by C.J. Abrams off Michael Rucker, and I have to think Rucker’s going to be designated for assignment soon, as the Cubs still need a couple of open 40-man roster spots for guys reported to be signed, but not made official by the team.

Jared Young, a 26-year-old first baseman who likely doesn’t have a future with this team, gave the Cubs a lead they would not relinquish with a solo home run leading off the sixth. Sadly, I do not have video of this to show you. Neither do I have video of the leadoff double Young hit in the eighth. Again, perhaps he could help another team. Young hit .290/.361/.471 with nine home runs in 72 games split between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and he’s another one of those guys who was really hurt by the lost 2020 minor league season.

Incidentally, the homer was off Daniel Camarena, who was in Cubs spring camp in 2018.

Kevin McCarthy, who pitched parts of five seasons between 2016 and 2020 with the Royals, threw the last two innings for a save. With the passel of pitchers signed by Jed Hoyer in the last week, McCarthy’s probably going to be stashed at Iowa. He had some success in Kansas City, especially in 2017 and 2018, and could be helpful somewhere down the road.

You read earlier today here of the Cubs’ signing of lefty Drew Smyly, who was in the organization in 2018 but never pitched for the Cubs in the major leagues coming off Tommy John surgery. He was pretty good for Atlanta last year and could be useful either in the rotation or bullpen.

Other Cubs moves today:

The Vizcaino in question is Alexander Vizcaino, a 24-year-old righthander who was one of two players (Kevin Alcántara the other) acquired in the Anthony Rizzo trade.

The Cubs will still need to clear three more 40-man roster spots when Daniel Norris, Jonathan Villar and Steven Brault are officially signed. There’s one more 40-man player who can go on the 60-day injured list (Miguel Amaya) and after that, guys will have to be waived. I mentioned Michael Rucker earlier as a candidate.

Sunday, Alec Mills will take the mound for the Cubs against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. L.A. does not yet have a starting pitcher listed. For those curious about Wade Miley, I have learned he’s in camp and doesn’t have any injury issues, so we should see him starting soon, I’d think. Game time Sunday is 3:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network, and the game will also be on radio in Chicago on 670 The Score.