Chicago baseball report: Cubs have some key decisions to make — and the White Sox will take a look at 3 pitching additions

Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS

GLENDALE and MESA, Ariz. — With less than three weeks until opening day in Arlington, Texas, the Chicago Cubs will need to make roster cuts soon and begin figuring out which starting pitchers they want to continue to stretch out versus preparing to pitch out of the bullpen.

Three offseason pitching additions are scheduled to start this weekend for the White Sox.

Erick Fedde will be on the mound Friday against the Cleveland Guardians in Goodyear, Ariz., while Michael Soroka goes Saturday against the San Diego Padres in Peoria, Ariz. Both will be making their second starts this spring. Chris Flexen, who pitched two relief innings Monday, is slated to start Sunday against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Every Monday and Friday during spring training, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead for the Cubs and Sox. Want more? Sign up for our new Cubs and White Sox newsletters.

Caleb Kilian and Nick Madrigal are sidelined by injuries

A promising beginning to Kilian’s season has been derailed.

An MRI showed Kilian has a teres major strain in his right shoulder, which will keep the 26-year-old right-hander sidelined for months. He is not expected to return to game action until around the All-Star break in July.

“Caleb was off to a great start,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said Thursday. “When talking to him, he should be very confident of where he was and that should really help him over the next couple months here and motivate him that he should be really excited about how he was throwing baseball.

“There was a lot to like, and he certainly got my attention.”

Kilian’s injury to a blow to the starting pitching depth at Triple-A Iowa. He was looking to bounce back from a tough final month of the 2023 season and reestablish himself as a rotation option after three appearances with the Cubs in which he surrendered 10 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Madrigal is dealing with a mild right hamstring strain that will slow the infielder who is vying for a spot on the opening-day roster. Madrigal will progress over the next week “and then we’ll have a good idea where we’re at, but still I would say optimistic,” Counsell said.

Madrigal is no stranger to soft-tissue problems. He landed on the 10-day injured list twice last season because of the same injury, missing six weeks from early June to mid-July and then was out the final two weeks of the season. Madrigal also went on the IL three times in 2022 for a right groin strain, left groin strain and low back strain.

Asked whether he will need to keep usage in mind with Madrigal once the season starts because of the ailments, Counsell replied: “No, I don’t know if I’m thinking like that right now.”

“Today it’s important to remember it’s March 7, and that’s what I told Nick: ‘It’s March 7, Nick, and you do have a history here so let’s be smart,’ ” Counsell said. “In season I think you’re aware of it, but I don’t want to put any limitations on him because of it right now.”

Rain delay doesn’t slow down Sox starter Dylan Cease

Cease got to test out waiting through a rain delay Thursday at Camelback Ranch.

“In Arizona, you’re not expecting that to happen very often,” Cease said.

After a 33-minute delay, the right-hander got to work by striking out Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Andruw Monasterio. Cease struck out five in three innings in the 8-2 loss. He allowed one run on two hits during his second Cactus League start.

“Fastball command was really good,” Cease said. “Slider was pretty consistent. I could be a little more consistent with it, but it was pretty good. Definitely a good outing.”

Cease hovered around 96-97 mph with the fastball, according to readings on the videoboard.

“If I could live there during the season, I’ll get plenty of outs,” he said. “I’d like to uptick a little bit more, but we’ll see. I’ll definitely take that, though.”

Cease has allowed one run on four hits with six strikeouts in five innings during two starts this spring. The one run came Thursday, a homer by Brewers right fielder Brewer Hicklen in the second inning.

Cease described his stuff as “pretty good.”

“I don’t think it was my sharpest, but I’m very happy throwing strikes,” he said. “A start like that, if I had the same exact stuff I would be feeling good in all my starts.”

Number of the week: 17

The Sox entered Thursday ranked fifth in the majors this spring with 17 stolen bases, including five Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Infielder Braden Shewmake leads the team with four.

Week ahead: Cubs

  • Friday: vs. Mariners (SS), 2:05 p.m., Marquee; at Diamondbacks, 2:10 p.m.

  • Saturday: vs. Rockies, 2:05 p.m., Marquee

  • Sunday: at Rangers, 2:05 p.m., Marquee

Right-hander Jameson Taillon is in line to make his first Cactus League start Saturday. He has pitched on the backfields as he made mechanical adjustments. The Cubs also took a cautious approach because Taillon’s calves had bothered him this spring, though only when running to cover first base. Taillon has not been concerned by the more deliberate buildup process and expects his pitch count to be where he needs to for the start of the season. He threw three innings and more than 40 pitches in a simulated game this week.

Cody Bellinger is expected to play in the field this weekend for the first time this spring after getting into his first game Wednesday. Although he went hitless in three plate appearances, an 11-pitch walk in Bellinger’s first PA showed why he can be such a tough out for opposing pitchers.

“That’s what was so impressive to me, it was the right foul balls,” Counsell said. “That’s what kind of got me excited where you’re given something with two strikes but staying in the fight until you get a pitch to hit or he walks you. It’s one of those at-bats where you want that at-bat in spring training. To get it the first day, it’s like a hat tip to a really good hitter.”

Week ahead: White Sox

  • Friday: at Guardians, 2:05 p.m.

  • Saturday: at Padres, 2:10 p.m.,

  • Sunday: at Giants, 3:05 p.m.

Flexen is concentrating on “getting back to where I used to be” this spring.

“Just attacking guys in the zone and trying to clean up some mechanics stuff to be more efficient,” the right-hander said Monday.

Flexen, 29, signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Sox this offseason. He went 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA in 29 outings (16 starts) between the Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies in 2023.

Flexen made a career-best 31 starts in 2021 for the Mariners, going 14-6 with a 3.61 ERA, 125 strikeouts and 40 walks in 179 2/3 innings.

He pitched two scoreless innings in his first spring outing Monday against the Diamondbacks, allowing one hit while walking one and striking out one. He pitched the third and fourth innings Monday and is scheduled to start Sunday against the Giants.

“I take away from (Monday) just make sure to stay ahead of guys and attack guys,” Flexen said.

What we’re reading this morning


“It’s part of the game, and Dansby Swanson is going to make an error too. … So if we learn from them, then they’re good and they are the best learning moments.” — Counsell on third baseman Christopher Morel’s two errors Wednesday