Cubs' Justin Steele shakes off comebacker, rust in return

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New dad Steele shakes off comebacker, rust in return originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

New dad Justin Steele said he was able to get some sleep Tuesday night, ahead of picking up his newborn son, Beau — who was born Monday — from the hospital Wednesday morning.

A nap followed that afternoon, before the Cubs lefty took the mound that night against the Orioles.

Wednesday was Steele’s first start in nine days after he went on the paternity list over the weekend. Baltimore didn’t waste time welcoming him back.

“First batter just drilled my leg,” said Steele, chuckling, of Orioles leadoff man Cedric Mullins’ comebacker that deflected off him to start the game.

“I was like, ‘Alright, right back into it.’ Feel like I've been drilled multiple times now within the last year. Definitely felt good getting back out there and competing again.”

Steele acknowledged he had some rust to knock off after his time away. When the Cubs were in Los Angeles last week, he was doing whatever he could to stay ready, even if it was out of his normal routine. He mentioned throwing into a net to keep his arm loose.

Wednesday, the Orioles scored four runs off him in the first two innings, including three in the opening frame. Through three innings, his pitch count stood at 54.

But Steele bounced back well and settled in from there, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced to make it through six innings on just 85 pitches — finishing with a quality start. Three of the four runs he allowed were earned.

He allowed six hits and a walk with three strikeouts.

“It looked like he just had to knock some of the rust off to start and then found his groove,” manager David Ross said. “He looked really good. The fastball was jumping late, the slider he was able to command that even better later on in the game.

“I thought he did a nice job of getting back into rhythm after those first couple innings and settled in nicely.”

It was a nice outing to put a bow on Steele’s first half, ahead of the upcoming All-Star break.

Over his last seven starts, he holds a 2.98 ERA in 42 1/3 innings, striking out 33 with 14 walks.

He’s establishing himself as a key piece to the Cubs future and continues to prove his capability as a big-league starting pitcher.

All in all, it’s been a memorable couple of days for Steele.

“Just the best of my life,” he said of what the last 48-72 hours have been like for him. “I mean, becoming a dad was just so special, just bawling my eyes out as soon as that happened.

“So ready to get back home to him right now and just love on him.”

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