Latest Justin Steele injury update is exactly what Cubs didn’t need

Where will Craig Counsell turn with Justin Steele heading for IR?

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Justin Steele
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Justin Steele / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The start of a new season is filled with hope, even for the most weathered fanbases. The Chicago Cubs got to enjoy that optimism for about four innings.

After 4.2 strong innings on the mound against the Texas Rangers, ace Justin Steele made an impressive play limiting the damage on a sacrifice bunt. But he couldn't limit the damage to his hamstring, which he strained in the process.

Steele had to leave the game and Craig Counsell's update on the pitcher probably won't surprise any Cubs fans, but it's certainly the last thing anyone wanted to hear.

Justin Steele injury update: Cubs pitcher has hamstring strain, IR likely

Counsell told reporters following Chicago's heartbreaking loss in extra innings that Steele strained his hamstring. He will be getting an MRI on Friday but the expectation is he'll have to go on the injured list.

"Looks like we're gonna miss him for a little bit here," Counsell said.

No specific timetable was available on Thursday night. Realistically it could be a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Hamstring injuries generally aren't something athletes get over quickly though. The length of time Steele misses will be determined by the MRI, which will tell the Cubs the extent of the damage.

What options do the Cubs have to replace Justin Steele

Counsell can go a couple of ways to fill the gap left behind by Steele. Drew Smyly opened the season in the bullpen but he could be deployed as a starter. He started 23 games for the Cubs last year going 11-11. He had a 5.00 ERA on the season. That may not be the most encouraging option since he just gave up the walk-off run in the loss to the Rangers.

The other option comes from the farm system. Ben Brown was expected to get a look in 2024. The Cubs No. 10 prospect started two games during spring training and looked strong in his appearances, posting a 0.64 ERA with 12 strikeouts and five walks in 14 innings of action.

Does Counsell go with the veteran or the young gun? We'll find out.

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