Home News Shota Imanaga lined up to start home opener in debut

Shota Imanaga lined up to start home opener in debut

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MESA, Ariz. — Wrigley Field is lined up to be the backdrop to Shota Imanaga’s first major-league start.

Barring any injuries in the final days before the regular season begins, the Chicago Cubs’ current rotation order has the Japanese lefty scheduled to start their home opener on April 1 against the Colorado Rockies.

“I’m very honored to do that,” Imanaga said Sunday through interpreter Edwin Stanberry.

The Cubs will roll out Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks and Jordan Wicks in their season-opening series against the Rangers in Texas with Imanaga and Javier Assad taking the mound during the team’s first homestand versus Colorado. Imanaga hasn’t received any advice yet about pitching at Wrigley in April but has heard it’s really cold and very windy. The current forecast for the home opener projects a high of 47 degrees with a 53% chance of rain.

“Once I get to Chicago, I kind of want to figure out the environment and go from there,” Imanaga said.

Kyle Hendricks is happy Imanaga gets the ball to kick off the Cubs’ home schedule.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable feeling,” Hendricks said Sunday after his final spring training start. “I know he’s going to soak it all in I’m sure but he’s going to be locked in on the task. After it’s all over, sit down and just talk about how cool it was and how it went. But it’s going to be a special, special game for sure.”

Nick Madrigal’s status for opening day is still uncertain

Chicago Cubs third baseman Nick Madrigal throws to first base to get San Francisco Giants' Patrick Bailey out during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Chicago Cubs third baseman Nick Madrigal throws to first base during the second inning of a spring training baseball game on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

For the first time in nearly three weeks, Nick Madrigal’s name was in the Cubs’ lineup. Yet the lack of game action does not necessarily mean he will start the year on the injured list because of the left hamstring injury he’s worked back from.

Madrigal started at third base Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, going 0-for-3. Manager Craig Counsell said pregame the decision involves Madrigal’s readiness stemming from his lack of reps due to the injury. Madrigal’s history with soft tissue injuries could also lead the Cubs to take a more cautious approach.

“Just the preparedness and having some routine to his spring training, that’s kind of the question,” Counsell said. “There is a health question and we’ve got to figure out where we want to go with that, how aggressive we might be.”

Despite not playing in a Cactus League game since March 4, Madrigal had gotten at-bats on the minor-league back fields in addition to his 16 exhibition at-bats. Madrigal told the Tribune he felt good after playing five innings against Seattle, but at that point did not know if he would be part of the opening day roster.

“We’re still kind of playing it second by second,” Madrigal said. “We’re going to talk. The main thing was just getting one game under the belt and reevaluate after that. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t even have one yet.

“I’m seeing the ball well, and I’m ready to go. I think one, two more games I’ll be good to go.”

Patrick Wisdom begins baseball activity

Cubs slugger Patrick Wisdom practices fielding drills on Feb. 22, 2024, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)
Chicago Cubs slugger Patrick Wisdom practices fielding drills on Feb. 22, 2024, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)

Although third baseman Patrick Wisdom will begin the season on the injured list, he is starting to progress through his rehab now that his back feels “really good.”

Wisdom played catch Sunday as he begins baseball activity. After he sustained the injury 10 days ago, Counsell told Wisdom the Cubs need him for the long haul so there is no rush to get back, especially with that type of injury.

“Just hearing that from him gave me a lot of comfort knowing like, OK, let’s do it right and do it slow and get back to where I can play the whole season,” Wisdom told the Tribune. “Everyday life is not limiting and no pain so that’s encouraging and obviously that will help us progress the rehab accordingly.”

Wisdom hurt his back lifting a weight to begin his warmup routine in the weight room. He remains hopeful that a mid-April return is realistic, but it will come down to how his back feels and the number of reps he can get. Wisdom has been limited to only 16 at-bats between quad tightness in late February that kept him out of games for more than a week and this back injury.

“From a personal standpoint it’s annoying because I did so much in the offseason to feel good and I felt great,” Wisdom said. “It’s just little things that need time, it wasn’t an easy fix. … Then I get back (after the quad issue) feeling good and on my off day I’m like, let’s get a lift in and pick up a weight wrong. Frustrating and annoying is how I view it.

“Baseball-wise, I felt really good with my swing, my timing and how I was playing so that’s encouraging being able to step back knowing I was in a good spot.”

Cubs reportedly to open 2025 season in Japan



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