When the Cubs drafted right-handed pitcher Alex Lange, I thought they had gotten a steal. Lange is 21 years old and already has a lot of experience pitching on a big stage after a college career at LSU. Armed with a major-league-ready curveball and driven by an uber-competitive nature, he’s got the talent and attitude to make it. Whether he starts or relieves when he gets to Chicago does not matter to me.
When I watched Lange pitch in the College World Series, I came away very impressed with his ability to locate his fastball and pitch is way out of trouble. Despite being ready both physically and mentally, I did not expect the Cubs to let him pitch this year. After throwing 120-plus innings for the Bayou Bengals, I figured he would follow the standard MO and hang out, just get acclimated to the pro lifestyle and show up at fall instructs and throw some BP there, sort of like Thomas Hatch did in 2016. That didn’t happen.
Last night in Spokane, Lange made his professional debut with Eugene Emeralds. The Cubs have predetermined that Lange will only pitch 10 innings the rest of this year, so we’re talking about very short stints each time out. I thought he might go two innings, tops, to stay within that mandate. But what a two innings it was.
Lange faced six batters, striking out three and getting two grounders and a popup. He only used 22 pitches to clear the pair of perfect frames. The performance was absolutely one of pure dominance, as Lange was a primordial beast on the mound. His fastball came in between 89 and 93 and his curve, according to Eugene radio announcer Pat Zajak, was “as good as advertised” in getting two of his strikeouts.
The young righty was a bit wild in the 1st inning, perhaps due to the adrenaline, but calmed down in the 2nd. He was efficient in throwing 15 of 22 pitches for strikes and did not walk a batter. I got the sense that Lange is beyond short-season ball. With his background and big game experience, Eugene might just be a safe place for him to get his 10 innings in. I, for one, would like to see how he does against more advanced hitters. The average age of the six batters he faced last night was 19.67, not really a challenge for someone who has pitched three years of SEC baseball.
Who knows, maybe Lange’s next start will be in South Bend. Something tells me he likely won’t be there long either.