CINCINNATI — Command and velocity don’t always go hand-in-hand. But they did for Cubs right-hander Hayden Wesneski in Game 2 of the doubleheader Friday.
“I know what the week of work looked like,” Wesneski said Saturday. “And so it’s like, OK, that’s what it should look like, that’s how it should go down. So to be able to see it come to life, you don’t understand how much of a confidence booster that is for a young guy like me.”
In the 3-2 loss, Wesneski threw 3⅓ hitless innings, and his fastball velocity ticked up, continuing a trend over his last couple of outings.
“That’s as good as Wes has looked since last year,” manager David Ross said after the game.
Wesneski pointed to getting ahead in counts as a key to his success.
“I stuck to the strengths, where it was just heater-slider for the most part,” Wesneski said. “I was laying the slider for strikes early, putting it where I needed to late. And then the heater, obviously with the velo and location, was incredible.”
Wesneksi got 10 called strikes with his slider, according to Statcast. His four-seam fastball touched 98.6 mph and averaged 97.2 mph, which was 3 mph over his season average.
Wesneski also threw five cutters and two changeups, important weapons against left-handed hitters. He has struggled this season against lefties, but on Friday, none of them did damage against him. Wesneski induced Jake Fraley to ground out, struck out TJ Friedl and Nick Martini and walked Will Benson.
“The cutter’s locked in a good spot,” Wesneksi said. “The changeup I’ve been working on a little bit more in between, especially in catch play, and hopefully transfer it to the bullpen in-game. But I feel better about it. I feel like I have more conviction with it, and in big spots, I think I could use it.”
Honing his focus in catch play has been one of Wesneski’s between-outings breakthroughs as he has tried to refine his command. And he thinks his increase in velocity came from improved mechanics. Wesneski and the pitching coaches have found effective cues and plyo-ball drills.
Reds’ COVID outbreak
The Reds have put four pitchers on the COVID-19 injured list over the course of the weekend series: left-hander Brandon Williamson and right-handers Hunter Greene, Fernando Cruz and Ben Lively.
“Life’s uncertain, right?” Ross said. “That doesn’t affect me. I show up, let’s party today. We’ve got a healthy crew, and let’s go. It sucks for them, but some people don’t feel good every day.”
Williamson was penciled in to start Sunday, which affects the Cubs’ plans. As of Saturday evening, the Reds had not yet announced their new starter.
“I had yesterday’s lineup written down,” Ross said. “Probably will change that.
Relievers Brandon Hughes (knee surgery) and Nick Burdi (appendectomy) are taking an important step in their injury rehabilitations. The Cubs sent them both to Triple-A Iowa on rehab assignments.