Home News Shota Imanaga getting 10 days’ rest between starts

Shota Imanaga getting 10 days’ rest between starts

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ST. LOUIS — Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell knew there would be a stir Friday night when the news of Shota Imanaga’s prolonged rest hit the internet.

How could it not?

Anytime you do something different, you’re going to invite scrutiny. And being the highest-paid manager in the game gives you enough clout to make decisions other managers might leave to their general managers.

Counsell and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy were discussing their starting pitching options during Friday’s rain delay at Busch Stadium when the possibility of a split doubleheader Saturday was still very real. If Imanaga and Jameson Taillon both started Saturday, another bullpen day in the next week was inevitable.

As it turned out, Friday’s game was postponed and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on July 13, saving the Cubs from that headache. Most fans and media assumed Imanaga would be pushed back until Saturday, as usually happens after rainouts.

Instead, the Cubs announced Imanaga would be held back for next week’s four-game series in Milwaukee without offering an explanation from the manager.

Conspiracy theories abounded.

Was Imanaga tired? Was Counsell saving the game’s hottest new starter for his big homecoming series against his former team?

Counsell addressed the decision before Saturday’s game, saying the Cubs simply wanted Imanaga to get extra rest and found a perfect spot to do so after the postponement. He then said Imanaga likely would start Game 3 of the Brewers series Wednesday night.

So with 10 days of rest, Imanaga basically would be skipping a start. A little breather after nine starts in what they hope will be the first season since 2018 with 30 or more starts and first since 2019 or 170 or more innings.

“We’re thinking about the big picture of the innings puzzle for the entire season for Shota,” Counsell said. “And just trying to take advantage of a spot where we could do something, with that thought in mind that hopefully we’ve got a big number of innings piling up, and that in August and September we’re going to need to kind of go, and he’ll be good through this whole stretch.”

Justin Steele will start Monday afternoon’s opener in Milwaukee, with Ben Brown getting his second straight start Tuesday night.

Imanaga, 30, who like most Japanese starters typically worked on five days’ rest, has made two starts for the Cubs on four days of rest, five with five days and two of six or more days.

Counsell pointed to the transition Imanaga is making to a “different league, a different travel schedule, a different culture” and said this is a small way of letting him “refill the tank.”

Imanaga went out to the bullpen Friday before his scheduled start but only stretched and didn’t warm up. There was no rain at the time the delay was announced, so when Hottovy told him to go back to the clubhouse, Imanaga asked: “Am I doing something wrong?”

Hottovy told him about the rain delay, and Imanaga walked back to the clubhouse to wait things out. When the postponement came, Counsell called him into his office.

“Craig and I talked about it, and that it’s going to be a long season,” Imanaga said through his interpreter. “And not just this season. We’ve still got next year and the year after that. Just thinking about that, and had the opportunity (to rest) with the rainout. So just move on and pitch.”

Imanaga said his arm was fine and he is not tired.

“I feel like tiredness and stress go hand in hand,” he said. “The Cubs organization, being around my teammate and the staff, they really do help in lowering your stress level. I feel great.”

Imanaga threw 159 innings last year in Japan and had a career-high 170 innings in 2019. Counsell confirmed they’re thinking about ways to keep his innings totals in that vicinity.

“Maybe he was a little surprised by it, but he is feeling good,” Counsell said. “This is a proactive move, trying to get ahead of (things)… We’re tracking toward 170ish innings, and just trying to know that’s the number and there are very few spots in the schedule where you have a chance to use the schedule to your advantage. This is one of them.”

The Cubs’ rotation plans have been changing on the fly over the last several weeks because of injuries, the return of Steele and Taillon and the demotion of Kyle Hendricks, who moved to the bullpen Monday. Jordan Wicks, rehabbing at Triple-A Iowa, made a two-inning start Friday and could rejoin the rotation in the next week or two.

Brown, who threw four shutout innings last week against the Atlanta Braves, earned another start. Multiuse pitcher Hayden Wesenski also has been available to either start or relieve at a moment’s notice.

The Cubs activated Drew Smyly from the IL on Saturday and optioned Jose Cuas to Triple-A Iowa. Smyly will be used as a multiple-innings option but is not expected to start, Counsell said. Ian Happ was “under the weather” Saturday and out of the lineup.

All in all, Counsell said he would prefer to have a set rotation that could be announced well in advance. But circumstances have forced him to audible, so “TBA” could be a recurring theme for the pitching probables.

“The nature of the game is there is stuff coming at us every night,” Counsell said. “We’ve got things going on in the background that you’re thinking about doing, or (think) it would be good if we could do this. And you have to use those opportunities when they come up.”

 

 

 



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