Neither Hayden Wesneski‘s performance nor his usage has been consistent this season, but it looks like the Cubs are doubling back on the initial goal to use him as a starter. He broke camp as part of the rotation following an excellent spring because Kyle Hendricks wasn’t ready, then was optioned in part to make room for The Professor before rejoining the team in a relief role. Wesneski was immediately thrust back into the rotation when Justin Steele went down, but the righty’s last four appearances have come out of the bullpen.
With several relievers stepping up and carving out spots in David Ross‘s circle of trust while Jameson Taillon continues to struggle, the organization is now looking to get Wesneki back into a starting spot. That’s why he was optioned when flame-throwing righty Daniel Palencia was called up for Tuesday’s game. Though Palencia probably won’t work as often in long relief, his experience as a starter will allow him to pitch multiple innings if needed.
Palencia could also be ticketed for a starting spot at some point in the future, at least according to what pitching director Craig Breslow told him, though that won’t happen until next year if at all. In the meantime, his triple-digit heat — which plays differently due to his 5-foot-11 frame — will serve him well as he continues to acclimate to the bullpen.
Daniel Palencia throws 100 mph 4seams with a higher vertical approach angle (VAA) due to shorter stature (similar to Stroman's VAA). This means his 16.5" vert break (0.5" greater than avg) will play up.
Same location, but different vert break profiles
— Brendan Miller (@brendan_cubs) July 4, 2023
As for Wesneski, stretching out really shouldn’t take too long since he pitched at least two innings in six of seven appearances since being brought back to Chicago. How the Cubs transition him back to their rotation is another matter, one that might be predicated more on Taillon’s health and/or effectiveness. It’s not as easy as people think for teams to come up with phantom injuries to facilitate IL stints, but that could be an option if Taillon continues to pitch like he has.
There’s also the possibility that Marcus Stroman is traded ahead of the August 1 deadline, and Kyle Hendricks could even be moved if the Cubs don’t climb back into the race. The best outcome would be for the Cubs to get hot and recall Wesneski to lengthen the rotation and give the other starters a little more rest for a division run.