Cubs starter Hayden Wesneski struggling with command of sweeper

The overall success of the Cubs’ rotation has bought rookie Hayden Wesneski more time to cure his inconsistency.

“Where’s he’s at in his career, were’e going to take the good with the bad and continue to work through some of the moments where he’s not as sharp and trust the human and the work ethic right now,” manager David Ross said Saturday following a 9-4 loss to the Dodgers.

“He’s a big part of our success. We need him to just continue to grow.”

Wesneski’s struggles stem from his inability to pinpoint his sweeper. The Dodgers swung at only five of his 22 sweeper pitches, missing only once.

“The slider I throw is a delicate pitch,” Wesneski said. “When it’s really good, I can throw it anywhere at any time. But because it’s so big, it’s hard to land and get the feel of it. I’ve had this before.”

Wesneski, who can be brutally honest after assessing his performances, chuckled before admitting he wonders whether he can pitch well enough to maintain the team’s patience in him “all the time.”

“I’m not far off,” Wesneski said. “It’s just little things that need tuning up, especially against a good team.”

With Jameson Taillon on the 15-day injured list, Wesneski’s spot will be safe for several weeks. The Cubs still need to name a starter when the turn for the fifth spot in their rotation surfaces April 29.

In another development, Kyle Hendricks threw 45 pitches in a three-inning stint in an extended spring game in Arizona. Hendricks, according to, allowed one run on four hits while striking out two against a group of Athletics minor leaguers. 

Hendricks could embark on a minor league rehab assignment shortly.

No closing the door in ninth

Ross hasn’t named a closer since Craig Kimbrel pitched for the Cubs from 2019-21, and the flexibility of his relievers gives him more freedom.

“We got guys with different looks and skill sets, but they’re all in there trying to embrace their role, go and get outs when they’re asked,” Ross said. “Nobody feels like they need to have the ninth or the sixth or fifth (inning), and I think that’s a positive thing.

“They understand Keegan (Thompson) and Adbert (Alzolay) can give you multiples (innings), how the pockets may line up, they know to be ready to get outs in their area.”

Ross reinforced his faith in Michael Fulmer, who suffered two ninth-inning losses in the previous week. Fulmer leans heavily on a sharp slider.

Brad Boxberger saved 32 games for the Diamondbacks in 2018 and has persevered at 35 with a changeup that he admits “hasn’t been great” in recent years.

“I’m getting more of a feel for it, but I’ve been relying more on the fastball, cutter and slider,” Boxberger said.

Mark Leiter Jr.’s signature pitch is a split-finger fastball that enabled Ross to use him against left-handers while Brandon Hughes was recovering from a knee injury, but Outman hit Leiter’s split for a homer in the seventh.

That marked the first homer off Leiter’s splitter since Aug. 16, 2018.

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