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Ruoff Mortgage Homestand Preview: May 21-26 | Military Appreciation Weekend

South Bend hosts Wisconsin for second time, Drew Smyly expected to pitch Tuesday
May 20, 2024

We’re getting set for what is going to be a wonderful week to lead up to Memorial Day, as well as our annual Military Appreciation Weekend in Downtown South Bend at Four Winds Field. This is one of the best week’s in the state, with baseball in the 574, and

We’re getting set for what is going to be a wonderful week to lead up to Memorial Day, as well as our annual Military Appreciation Weekend in Downtown South Bend at Four Winds Field. This is one of the best week’s in the state, with baseball in the 574, and ‘The Greatest Spectacle of Racing’ down in Indy. For the South Bend Cubs, the players, coaches, front office, and the entire organization, will be honored to welcome our heroes to be recognized this weekend.

Of course, for any active duty military members, as well as all veterans, you can claim your two complimentary tickets at the Four Winds Field box office this week. Please remember to bring your military ID, and the ticket department folks will be happy to help you.

The opponent this week? A familiar one. It’s going to be Cubs/Brewers, Midwest League style, as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers head to South Bend for the second time this season. Wisconsin was in town back in April in the first home series of the year, and the Rattlers are led by a familiar face; Former South Bend Silver Hawk Victor Estevez.

Wisconsin brought some of the best fundamentally sound baseball to the table the last time we saw them. What was so impressive about the Rattlers was, they not only did everything routinely well, but they didn’t need massive heart pounding plays to mount rallies. They actually did most of their damage with small ball. Get on base, run the bases well, be aggressive, and get runners in.

There was no better example of that than Dylan O’Rae. The native Canadian was a force at the top of that Rattler lineup, along with Luis Lara. What made Wisconsin especially dangerous was they found ways to win games even when O’Rae and Lara were struggling on a particular day. Also, O’Rae is only 20, Lara is just 19. The system for the Brewers in good shape.

All of that isn’t to say that the Timber Rattlers don’t have power. They do. Last week, Jesus Chirinos led Wisconsin to a victory at home via a walk-off home run. Overall, Wisconsin has been ultra consistent in the first half, and they’re looking to continue their push for a division title in the initial half, leading the Cedar Rapids Kernels by 1.5 games. It will be up to South Bend to halt the Timber Rattlers as we approach the month of June.

Also of note for Wisconsin, they currently have an MLB Rehab Assignment player on their roster. Lefty DL Hall was acquired by the Brewers from the Orioles in the Corbin Burnes trade. Hall has pitched in one game for Wisconsin, and still sits on their roster, but it’s not known if he will make the trip to South Bend. If he does, it’s intriguing, not only because he would be on the opposite side of his former Double-A manager and now South Bend bench coach Kyle Moore, but also because the Cubs expect to have their own lefty rehabbing at Four Winds Field this week.

Players to Watch on South Bend…

Drew Smyly, LHP (Expected MLB Rehab): Chicago Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly is expected to pitch for the South Bend Cubs in a rehab start on Tuesday night at 6:05 PM. Third time’s the charm for Smyly in the 574. If that occurs, he’ll be the first Chicago Cub to rehab in South Bend this year. Of course, 40-man roster member Brennen Davis played for about a week with the Cubs in April, but Smyly is from the Chicago active roster. He’s working back from a hip injury, and he’s expected to put on the South Bend pinstripes for the first time since he pitched against these same Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on July 4, 2022. That was in front of a massive crowd on Independence Day, and he’ll also be back at a very busy time of year leading up to Memorial Day. Obviously, you always hate to see a guy be injured, but Smyly is an awesome dude. Way back in 2018, he pitched for South Bend very late in that year to see if the had something lefty to potentially join Chicago late. It didn’t work out, but he found his way back to the Cubs some four years later, and has been a Cub since. Smyly struck out the side in that 2018 appearance against the Bowling Green Hot Rods, and also punched out six in that rehab start against Wisconsin in 2022. What’s to come this year? We’ll see. A big part of rehab outings is guys just getting back to their normal stuff. Sometimes, a pitcher may want to work on a particular pitch. And since Smyly has missed more than a month of time, he’ll need to get his full on mojo back. It’ll be awesome to see the big lefty out there again. Tuesday night, 6:05 PM, Drew Smyly, get your tickets now everybody!

Jordan Nwogu, OF: One of the key factors of South Bend winning the 2022 Midwest League Championship, big power hitting outfielder Jordan Nwogu is back. After spending all of 2023 at Double-A Tennessee, and beginning there this season, Nwogu returns to the 574 as Yohendrick Pinango was promoted to Tennessee. Speaking of getting the mojo back, you can bet when Nwogu gets back on track, he’s going to be a force once again. First off, he’s 6’3 and 230 pounds. Guy is built different, and after being selected by Chicago in the third round of the 2020 draft, you immediately saw the power. Nwogu smashed a three home-run game in West Michigan back in 2022, and ended that season with 15 home runs and 51 RBI. Most importantly, he also hit for average. At .265, that’s a perfect sweet spot with the average for a power hitter. And really, that’s what is next to come at Double-A. Nwogu will get back to Tennessee, it’s just a matter of time. But while he is in South Bend, A) heads up in the home run porch, and B) look at what Pinango just got done doing. Pinango is as free swinging and power oriented as you’re going to get. But he learned and developed. When Nwogu settles back in and is patient, hitting for average, and can crush baseballs out of the park, you’ll know that he's back with a vengeance.

Will Sanders, RHP: Another week, another start, another huge step taken by 2023 4th-round pick Will Sanders. The former South Carolina Gamecock is getting better every time he goes to the mound. This type of consistent improvement for a guy who didn’t throw his first professional pitch until just over a month ago is impressive. With each outing as well, he’s throwing more pitches, and going deeper into games. Let’s start with his pro debut against these same Timber Rattlers. April 10, no-decision, two innings, some grinding at-bat’s, but he made it through and showed flashes of great stuff. The next one at Beloit, a bit of a struggle, and one that can definitely teach lessons and a good reflection point. From that point on, it’s been haymaker after haymaker thrown at the opposition. Three strong innings versus Quad Cities to end April. Then an Education Day start at Lansing on May 1. One unearned run, one walk, five strikeouts, 3.2 brilliant innings. May 8 against Cedar Rapids, resiliency. Two home runs given up, both at the start of an inning, next batter after each, he struck out. And then boy oh boy, this past week in Fort Wayne. ERA lowered brilliantly, eight combined innings, no runs, working around a few walks, and five combined strikeouts. Sanders is doing exactly what he was drafted to do, and that’s make hitters look foolish at times. His stuff is nasty, he’s got the confidence oozing out of him, and he’s gonna get the chance to throw on Saturday evening against Wisconsin, live on Marquee Sports Network.

Schedule and Probables…

Tuesday, May 21 - 6:05 PM ET: LHP Mark Manfredi vs LHP Drew Smyly (expected rehab)

Wednesday, May 22 - 11:05 AM ET: LHP Tate Kuehner vs RHP Luis Devers

Thursday, May 23 - 7:05 PM ET: RHP Will Rudy vs. RHP Nick Hull

Friday, May 24 - 7:05 PM ET: TBD vs. LHP Drew Gray

Saturday, May 25 - 4:05 PM ET: RHP Yujanyer Herrera vs. RHP Will Sanders

Sunday, May 26 - 7:05 PM ET: RHP Alexander Cornielle vs. RHP Tyler Schlaffer