Javier Assad makes the most of his major league debut with 4 shutouts in 2-0 Chicago Cubs win – Reading Eagle

Javier Assad held out a baseball, took off his glasses and placed them on the brim of his Chicago Cubs cap.

His exit Tuesday afternoon was met with a standing ovation from Cubs fans among the 27,273 at Wrigley Field. In his major league debut, Asad controlled the St. Louis Cardinals for four-plus innings to give the Cubs a 2-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader on Tuesday.

“It’s something I can’t put into words,” Assad said of the standing ovation through an interpreter. “When I leave, I hear the fans, I know it’s a passionate fan base. It’s a big fan base. And it was fantastic.”

Asad’s debut lived up to what he imagined. He never thought about giving up on his path to the big leagues after signing with the Cubs of Mexico in 2015 at age 16. In front of his wife and parents, the 25-year-old right-hander struck out four, walked four and struck out three.

“I’ve always tried to work hard, prepare, compete to get to this point,” Asad said. “I know it took me a little longer to get there. But, thank God, I stayed healthy and was able to do it.”

Asad became the seventh pitcher in Cubs history to throw at least four scoreless innings in his major league debut. Ryan O’Malley was the last to do so on August 16, 2006 against the Houston Astros.

In the second inning, Cardinals shortstop Albert Puhols hit a 94.7 mph fly on the outside for Asad’s first major league strikeout.

“I never thought I’d face him, let alone strike out,” said Asad, who was 3 years old when Puhols reached the majors. “But it’s not just him. Yadier Molina, Nolan Arenado… these are guys I looked up to, guys I watched play my whole life. I was just excited and happy to get that strikeout.”

Assad is the 11th Cubs player to make his major league debut this season.

The Cubs needed to add Asad, who is set to become a minor league free agent, to the 40-man roster in order to retain his rights through the offseason. They can watch him against major league hitters over the last six weeks to see how his team plays at that level.

That possibility seemed unlikely after last season, when he posted a 5.32 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) at Double-A Tennessee. He allowed too many baserunners (10.7 hits per nine innings and a 1.538 WHIP) and was inconsistent with his actions.

He earned a promotion after pitching to Double A and then Triple-A Iowa, his first time at that level. In 23 games (21 starts), Asad had a 2.66 ERA in 108⅓ innings with a 24.8% strikeout rate, up 7.1% from 2021.

Asad credits his ascent to the major leagues with his offseason work. He focused on strength training with his trainer in Tijuana, Mexico, and believes it has paid off over the long season.

He also cited his experience in Mexico’s Pacific Winter League, where he pitched in high-pressure situations and excelled in that role, going 17 shutouts (18⅔ innings).

“That, combined with how strong I’ve gotten, really helped me get results this year,” Asad said.


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