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Cubs’ Justin Steele exits with apparent Opening Day injury

The Cubs’ opening game turned into a disaster, with ace Justin Steele leaving midway through the fifth inning with an apparent injury.

With one out and first base, Steele came off the mound to hit a bunt from Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras, but after taking a few steps, he picked up the ball, moved it to his left hand, and flipped it to Michael Busch. At first base, heading toward the baseline, Steele rolled and grabbed him in the back of his left thigh.

The 28-year-old then retired and finished his first pitching of 2024 with one earned run, three hits, six strikeouts, and one walk over 4 2/3 innings.

Steele, who the Cubs drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft and developed through the minor league system, is making his first career Opening Day start.

He is the first Cubs draft pick to get off to a notable start since Jeff Samardzija in 2014. According to MLB.com.

Justin Steele reacted after being injured in the fifth inning of his Opening Day start. AP

“It’s not always going to work out,” Steele told reporters, according to the newspaper. “It doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to. But sometimes you just have to keep your head down and push through the tough times, and the light at the end of the tunnel will always be brighter.”

Last year, Steele had the best performance of his career, going 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA, making an All-Star Game appearance and finishing fifth in National League Cy Young voting.

He then posted a 4.91 ERA in four spring training appearances, but on Friday, he left in his second appearance with a left knee contusion after being hit by a rebounding ball.

Justin Steele gave up one goal against the Rangers and left the game. Getty Images

However, Steele told reporters after his spring start that the bruise was “nothing to worry about.”

So he started the season opener on schedule and pretty much completed the Rangers’ lineup, as expected from the Cubs’ ace.

Rangers rookie Wyatt Langford hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, but that was the only time Texas scored.

Justin Steele appeared to be injured while fielding a bunt in the fifth inning on Thursday. USA TODAY Sports (via Reuters Con)

Julian Merryweather took the mound to replace Steele, and after walking the batter to get on base, the right-handed pitcher induced a ground out from Corey Seager to end the inning.

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