For Chicago Cubs rookie Ben Brown, his next big-league outing is a chance to settle in


Justin Steele understood how Ben Brown might be feeling after his major-league debut Saturday.
As Brown and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy were going over his rough first outing in which he allowed five hits, six runs, two walks and struck out one against the Texas Rangers, Steele approached and offered some encouragement, explaining how when he pitched in his first big-league game in April 2021, he didn’t know where the ball was going. Steele walked a batter, hit another, gave up a hit and struck out two in 1 1/3 innings during his debut against Milwaukee.
“You at least had control of what you were trying to do, I couldn’t feel my hands,” Steele told Brown.
The uplifting exchange stood out to Hottovy, who commended how the Cubs’ pitching staff pulls for each other.
“They know, they’ve been there,” Hottovy said. “Developing young pitchers, young players in the big leagues is knowing you’re going to struggle at some point. You’re going to hit some adversity and when you know that and you recognize that, you go through and see what you did. Yeah, it was six runs, but it could have been one, could have been two. There’s a lot of things that could have went differently, that could have went your way. Understand that and what you do really well and then just keep building off that.
“I think having guys that have gone through it — (Jameson Taillon) and Steele and (Kyle) Hendricks and guys Ben has looked up to and trusted for a long time saying the same things, it’s a nice message.”
Brown was expected to take multiple innings Wednesday night as the Cubs went for the series sweep against the Colorado Rockies. However, they opted to start lefty reliever Luke Little.
Multiple factors went into the Cubs’ decision. Manager Craig Counsell cited a fresh bullpen after Shota Imanaga and Javier Assad both went six innings the previous two games on top of the Rockies consistently using a lineup that features two left-handed hitters in the top three spots of the order.
“You also do it really to kind of change the job of maybe the guy that goes length and maybe they don’t face the top of the order as many times,” Counsell said.
Although Little pitched the ninth in Tuesday night’s 12-2 win, Counsell said the ease of his inning, with Little needing only 12 pitches to end the game, contributed to the Cubs feeling comfortable sending him out for the start Wednesday. Little becomes the first Cubs pitcher to finish a game and start the next one since Rick Reuschel on May 2, 1976, at San Francisco and May 4, 1976, at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Warren Hacker was the last to do it against the same team May 1-2, 1955, at the Philadelphia Phillies, according to team historian Ed Hartig.
When Brown does make his next appearances, the hope is those unique feelings that come with a player making his big-league debut are gone and he can settle in and continue pitching to his strengths.
“I think every player understands there are better players here, this is a better league, I’ve got to be just a little bit better,” Counsell said. “I don’t have to be any different, but they’re going to make me pay for mistakes a little more, a little more competitive on every pitch so it’s really subtle adjustments that you keep trying to make and as you pitch more you make those adjustments.”
With the Cubs using a bullpen day Wednesday, they don’t need to fill Steele’s rotation spot again until Tuesday in San Diego. Although Taillon is eligible to come off the 15-day injured list on that date, he won’t be ready to return. Taillon is scheduled to make his first rehab start Sunday at Double-A Tennessee due to potential weather issues at Triple-A Iowa. Counsell stated Wednesday that Taillon will need multiple rehab outings before joining the rotation.


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