Jeremiah Estrada left a strong impression in his last outing.
The 23-year-old Chicago Cubs right-hander walked the first batter he faced Monday against the Miami Marlins before recovering to strike out the side. Estrada finished with two scoreless innings, his best outing since he debuted Aug. 30 in Toronto.
The Cubs optioned Estrada to Triple-A Iowa before Wednesday’s series finale at LoanDepot Park. The move was made in conjunction with right-hander Keegan Thompson being activated from the 15-day injured list.
Estrada’s five appearances — with two runs allowed in 5⅔ innings — represent a small big-league sample size, but manager David Ross noted how the rookie has shown flashes of stuff.
Ross’ message to Estrada centered on continuing to work on his strengths and weaknesses because he could be recalled at some point.
“It’s some real swing and miss that stands out to me,” Ross said Wednesday. “He had a couple of bumps in the road there, which is expected. Just talking to him, helping him continue to develop and the things he wants to work on. Finding a strong routine that he believes in consistently and staying on that, working toward that.
“We’ve seen it before, some guy goes down and something happens up here and they’re right back.”
Thompson was out for a month with low back tightness. He will be used out of the bullpen, where he looks to finish strong. In 104⅓ innings, Thompson owns a 3.97 ERA, 1.313 WHIP, 2.46 strikeout-to-walk rate and a 104 ERA+ through 25 games (17 starts).
“Making sure he’s completely healthy was a top priority for us, and he feels good,” Ross said. “He wants to get back on there and help his team win. He’s worked really hard in the weight room and the training room and we’re happy to have him back.”
Esteban Quiroz’s memorable night
Esteban Quiroz’s professional baseball career traces back to his native Mexico, where he spent his first seven pro years in the Mexican League.
He didn’t join a minor-league affiliate until 2018 with the Boston Red Sox. Stints with three major-league organizations over the next four years eventually led him to the Cubs as part of a March trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Quiroz, 30, made his first major-league start Tuesday and collected his first hit and made a pair of nice defensive plays at second base, prompting Ross to declare after the game that Quiroz would be back in the lineup Wednesday.
Quiroz led off in the series finale and made another smooth play at second to help starter Marcus Stroman.
While these final two weeks carry no postseason meaning for the Cubs, they remain important to players such as Quiroz who are appreciating their major-league opportunity.
“It was a very humbling experience, really,” Quiroz said through an interpreter. “I dreamt of this moment. I was thinking about it a lot. It’s something that I’ve worked for. And (Monday) night they let me know that I was going to start the game.
“I started focusing on what I needed to do to be prepared to have the best start that I could. The three at-bats back in Chicago, I didn’t really perform the way that I wanted to. So I want to make sure I went out there and performed well.”
Marcus Stroman’s important pitch
The called strikes keep coming.
Stroman’s sinker has been particularly effective lately. After recording 14 called strikes with the pitch in his last start, his most since the beginning of the 2018 season, Stroman again had hitters guessing Wednesday with 10 called strikes with his sinker.
Stroman, as he typically does, relied predominantly on a sinker-slider combination versus the Marlins. He allowed three runs and five hits in six innings while walking one batter and striking out seven, one shy of his season high.
All three runs came off two home runs in the fifth. Nick Fortes took a 2-0 sinker deep to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead, and Lewin Diaz followed two batters later with a solo shot.
The Cubs rallied for a 4-3 win on Patrick Wisdom’s solo homer in the seventh and three runs without a hit in the eighth.
Ross credits Stroman’s sinker usage as the root of the right-hander’s success since returning from the IL in July.
“It’s been his best pitch well before he got here, but the main thing is he got back to using that a little bit more and having confidence in that,” Ross said. “That’s what I’ve seen and I think everything plays off that. He’s a really confident guy, especially when he has that two-seamer going and he’s been able to land the off-speed for strikes off that.”