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The Opener: Steele, First Base, Astros/Angels


As the calendar flips to June, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Steele to undergo MRI:

Cubs left-hander Justin Steele exited yesterday’s start against the Rays after throwing three perfect innings due to what the team has labeled “forearm tightness.” With an off-day for the club today, Steele is scheduled to undergo testing to determine the severity of his injury. Forearm tightness is always a concerning diagnosis, given its broad range of outcomes and status as a frequent precursor to a more serious injury.

Cubs fans surely anxiously await results from today’s testing, seeing as Steele has been one of baseball’s best starting pitchers for nearly a full calendar year, with a 2.15 ERA and 2.63 FIP in 117 innings since July 2022. Should Steele miss time, the Cubs figure to rely on youngster Hayden Wesneski to cover his spot in the rotation after the right-hander pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief of Steele during yesterday’s game.

2. First basemen in DFA limbo:

A pair of veteran first basemen have recently been designated for assignment by their organization. Luke Voit, who struggled to a 54 wRC+ in 74 plate appearances for the Brewers this season, and Jesus Aguilar, who posted an 83 wRC+ in 115 plate appearances for the A’s, are both poised to look for work with new clubs going forward. While the 32-year-old Voit and 33-year-old Aguilar have both struggled in recent seasons, each was about 10% better than league average with the bat as recently as 2021, giving reason for hope that one or both could bounce back.

One potential suitor for their services of either right-handed slugger would be a Phillies club that saw corner infielder Alec Bohm, who has played first base against left-handers for the club this season, suffer a potential injury to his left hamstring and undergo imaging to determine the severity of the issue. Should Bohm miss time, the club will be exceedingly thin at first base, with Rhys Hoskins out for the season and Darick Hall not yet back from an injury of his own. Either Voit or Aguilar could make sense in a platoon with Kody Clemens, as The Athletic’s Matt Gelb notes, though Voit has been better against righties than lefties in each of the past five seasons and has been particularly unproductive versus southpaws dating back to last season.

3. Astros vs. Angels series preview:

The Angels are set to head to Houston for a four-game set against the Astros beginning this evening at 7:10pm CT. The series could have significant implications for both clubs going forward, as Houston currently sits three games ahead of Anaheim for second place in the AL West and the final AL Wild Card spot, meaning a series sweep could propel the Angels ahead of the Astros.

In addition the the standings-related intrigue, the Astros appear poised to move to a six-man rotation during the series. Chandler Rome of The Athletic notes that the club hasn’t announced its probable starters for the series, as they are waiting until they make a corresponding move to promote a sixth starter sometime today. Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, J.P. France, and Brandon Bielak are currently slated to face off against the Angels during the series, but the incoming sixth starter could slot anywhere into that mix. Regardless of the starters the Astros plan to use, the Angels figure to counter with Reid Detmers, Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, and Griffin Canning.

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