Dallas Beeler is the future.
Not in the same way as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are in this Cubs organization, but Beeler is at the forefront of the next stable of arms expected to hit Wrigley Field later this year, especially with veteran starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel likely to be traded.
Making his major-league debut Saturday against the Washington Nationals, Beeler threw six solid innings, allowing only an unearned run but ended up saddled with the tough-luck loss in a 3-0 game in front of 35,770 at Wrigley Field.
The only run the Nationals pushed across while Beeler was on the mound was a wild pitch from the 25-year-old right hander. He allowed just four hits and three walks (one intentional) while striking out six and he even picked up a base hit on the first pitch he saw at the plate.
"He managed himself well through this outing," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He looked very composed. Didn't look like he was flustered at all. Had great body language, just a sense of calm out there. Even got his first hit. It looked like the belonged there."
Beeler was called up just to give the Cubs another arm in Saturday's day-night doubleheader and will head back to Triple-A Iowa. But he made a lasting impression with his one start and had several fans and analysts comparing his motion and stuff to two-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay.
Even Cubs catcher John Baker could see the parallels between Beeler and Halladay.
"For me, it's more about how the ball moves," Baker said comparing the two righties. "[Beeler] threw a lot of cutters and sinkers to those guys and they were having trouble deciphering which one was which.
"It's a nice kind of flash of what the future is going to be and for him to come out and pitch the way he did, I've got nothing but respect for what he did."
Beeler has had a long, winding road to get to this point. The Cubs made him their 41st round draft pick in 2010 and he has battled through a myriad of injuries, including Tommy John surgery in college and a torn tendon in his pitching hand last season.
Beeler carries a career 3.71 ERA in 76 games (68 starts) spanning five minor league seasons. He found success last year at Double-A (4-2, 3.13 ERA, 1.098 WHIP) before landing on the disabled list and has performed well again this season after a jump to Triple-A (5-2, 4.03 ERA, 1.18 WHIP).
His parents were on hand to see his journey come full circle Saturday at Wrigley Field.
"I'm happy with it," Beeler said. "I think anybody that has a big-league debut, regardless of how it goes, it's a big weight lifted off the shoulders. I'm very happy."
Beeler looked calm, cool and collected on the mound, developing a nice rhythm early as he retired the first six MLB hitters he faced. He credited his sinker as his "bread and butter" and admitted he slept fine Friday night, keeping the butterflies at bay.
"I was a lot calmer than what I thought I'd be," he said. "I walked out there, took a deep breath, threw my bullpen, threw my warm-up pitches and kinda looked around again, exhaled and thought 'alright, this is the same game I've been playing for the last 20 years.' I took a deep breath and I relaxed."
Baker said he gave Beeler some advice on how to handle his emotions over the day or so leading up to the debut.
"I told him before the game to think about this like he was going into Mississippi in a Double-A game," Baker said. "A lot of times, you talk about the stuff a guy has - like a slider, a cutter, a changeup or breaking ball - but generally, some guys get third-deck shock where all of a sudden they just forget who they are and I wanted to make sure he remembered who he was and that he threw the game he wanted to throw.
"He was exactly what I thought he was going to be. He did a great job not giving in to the pressure of the situation - pitching at Wrigley Field for his first major-league appearance. That's a tough thing to do. He was as impressive from behind the plate as he was in the press box."
Beeler knew all along he was only up here for one start and said he's excited to go back to Triple-A Iowa with this experience in his back pocket and his confidence boosted.
He understands he's a part of the Cubs' youth movement and even if he's not mentioned alongside top pitching prospects like C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson or even Kyle Hendricks, Beeler could get another shot to showcase his stuff in Chicago later this year.
"You're always trying to make an impression," he said. "When I got out there, I just wanted to make pitches and pitch my game. I didn't wan tto try to use my weaknesses against somebody else's strengths. I went out there and I just tried to throw, actually."
"[The most lasting memory from this all] is the overall experience. But I'd say if there was one [memory], it was running out there for the first time. You pick up the ball in the first inning, everyone's loud, everyone's cheering.
"Thats probably the first and best memory of it all."