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Justin Steele injury: Cubs ace leaves Opening Day start with left hamstring tightness after fielding bunt

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Chicago Cubs left-hander Justin Steele exited his start on Thursday night against the Texas Rangers after suffering what the Cubs called left hamstring tightness during the bottom of the fifth inning (GameTracker).

Steele went down after successfully fielding a Leody Taveras push bunt and tossing to first base for the second out in the inning. He then began to grab at what appeared to be his hamstring, taking some time before making his way to the Cubs dugout. Here’s a look at the play:

New Cubs manager Craig Counsell subsequently inserted right-hander Julian Merryweather.

Steele, 28, had pitched well to that point in the night. In 4 2/3 innings he had surrendered one run on three hits and a walk. He had also struck out six batters, generating a game-high 10 swinging strikes, including six on his fastball.

Steele has developed into a high-quality starter for the Cubs in recent seasons. Over the last two years, he’s compiled a 3.11 ERA (140 ERA+) and a 3.51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 292 innings pitched. Last season, he made his first career All-Star Game appearance.

It’s too early to know if Steele will require an injured list stint, or how long he’ll miss if he does. It is worth noting that the Cubs are already without veteran right-hander Jameson Taillon, who began the season on the shelf because of a strained shoulder. If the Cubs need to dip into their depth to replace Steele, they have a few options, ranging from pitchers already on the 40-player roster (Ben Brown and Hayden Wesneski) to Cade Horton, one of the best pitching prospects in the game in CBS Sports’ evaluation. (Horton was ranked No. 18 entering the spring.) 

The Cubs were tied 1-1 with the Rangers at the time of Steele’s removal from the contest. 

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