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Apr 1, 2024 1:30 am

Cubs LHP Shota Imanaga to make major league debut vs. Rockies

Shota Imanaga

The Chicago Cubs had the tough task of opening the season at the home of the 2023 World Series champions, and it didn’t go well to start. The Texas Rangers defeated the Cubs twice, but Chicago salvaged the three-game series with a 9-5 win in the finale on Sunday.

Now, the Cubs head north to face the visiting Colorado Rockies in their home opener on Monday afternoon.

The Cubs will send free-agent acquisition Shota Imanaga to the mound against Dakota Hudson.

Imanaga led the Japan Central League in strikeouts with 174 last season and is making his major league debut at Wrigley Field, a park that can be unkind to pitchers. The left-hander is coming off a spring training that was designed to get him ready for the real season, with his performance by the numbers not meaning as much.

Imanaga went 2-2 with a 5.68 ERA in four Cactus League starts, striking out 25 while working on locating his pitches. He was victimized by homers in the Japanese league, and the goal is to cut down on the long ball in the majors. He has a strategy.

“I felt that a difference between Japan and the U.S. is where to throw the fastball,” Imanaga said through an interpreter during spring training.

In addition to Monday marking Imanaga’s debut, it also will be Craig Counsell’s first game in Chicago as the Cubs’ manager. Counsell was Chicago’s other big “free-agent” signing when he was lured away from Milwaukee, where he managed the Brewers for nine seasons and led them to the National League playoffs five times.

The Rockies are coming off their first 100-loss season in franchise history, and they didn’t make any major moves in the winter.

Hudson was one of the signings to shore up a rotation that is waiting on the return of German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela, both of whom had Tommy John surgery in 2023. The right-hander will make his Colorado debut after spending the first six seasons of his major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hudson was 6-3 with a 4.98 ERA in 18 appearances (12 starts) for the Cardinals last year. He won the final spot in the Rockies’ rotation.

Hudson has faced the Cubs 10 times in his career, making five starts, and he is 3-0 with a 3.72 ERA against them.

The Rockies also faced a team that reached last year’s Fall Classic — the Diamondbacks — to open the season, and it was a tough four games for Colorado. Arizona took three of the meetings, most recently prevailing 5-1 on Sunday to prevent the Rockies from earning a split.

The Rockies didn’t pitch well in the series but fought back following the season opener, one in which the Diamondbacks scored 14 times in the third inning. Colorado was outscored 23-4 in the first two games but won 9-4 on Saturday night.

Nolan Jones had the key hit, a two-run triple in the fifth inning — to cap an 11-pitch at-bat.

“These are growth moments that we’re seeing in real time,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.

–Field Level Media

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