Rafael Ortega will lead off in center, followed by Frank Schwindel at first and Willson Contreras at catcher. Ian Happ is batting cleanup and playing left, Matt Duffy is at third, Nick Martini is in right, and David Bote is at second. Sergio Alcántara bats eighth and plays shortstop.
Kyle Hendricks is on the mound for the last time in 2021 and he’s got a chance to end an otherwise disappointing season on a high note. He has pitched to a career-high 4.81 ERA with a career-low 6.44 K/9 as batters have touched him up for a .275 average. Hendricks has also given up 195 hits, most in MLB, and 24 of those have come in four starts against the Pirates.
Opposing the Cubs is 21-year-old Roansy Contreras, who is making his MLB debut this evening after just 3.2 innings at Triple-A. He dominated Double-A with a 2.65 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 51.1 innings, so the Pirates must have figured he really didn’t have much left to prove.
Ranked the No. 4 prospect in Pittsburgh’s organization by FanGraphs, Contreras did not pitch at the club’s alternate site in 2020 after coming over from the Yankees in 2019 as part of the Jameson Taillon deal. He’s moved up prospect lists on the basis of a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and good breaking stuff, hence the big K numbers. His changeup is said to be a work in progress, but it’s improved since his days in the Yankees system.
Though you can’t really tell much from fewer than 310 total professional innings, Contreras is a strike-thrower who doesn’t give up many homers. Some of that could be the result of pitching just 58 innings above A-ball and facing undeveloped hitters, but this guy has moved very quickly over the last year and he could present problems if he can harness the adrenaline from his debut.
On the other hand, he could end up overthrowing and getting himself into trouble. The Cubs have had difficulties with unknown pitchers in the past, so we’ll see how this goes. First pitch is at 5:35pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 29, 2021