Chicago Cubs: James Norwood, the latest pitcher to ride the Iowa shuttle

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Very few fans had ever heard of James Norwood before the Chicago Cubs added him to the roster. Now, he is key piece of the constantly-changing bullpen.

Raise your hand if you had right-hander James Norwood pitching major innings for the Chicago Cubs this season. Nobody? Okay, raise your hand if you’d ever heard of him before that point? Still no one? Hmm.

Okay, I obviously can’t see whether anyone actually raised their hand after reading that. If I had to guess, though, I would say most, if not all of you, didn’t raise your hand. Heck, I had no idea who Norwood was until a few weeks ago.

The Cubs drafted Norwood, 24, in the seventh round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Before several weeks ago, he had little experience pitching at Triple-A (he has pitched just 5 1/3 innings there). Now, he’s pitching in the middle of a big league pennant race.

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Norwood became the latest pitcher to “ride the “Iowa Shuttle” for the Cubs in 2018. Not only is he is the tenth Iowa Cubs pitcher the Cubs have promoted this season, but he has come up big since joining the Cubs last week.

Instant results

July 11: The Cubs used six relievers, including closer Brandon Morrow, following Mike Montgomery’s start that lasted just five innings.

Norwood replaced Morrow in the 12th inning, preserving a 4-4 tie while striking out two San Francisco Giants batters. He surrendered a walk-off hit the next inning, though it should be noted he retired the first two batters of the inning.

July 14: Norwood picked up a hold against the San Diego Padres, recording a big out. Cubs lefty Randy Rosario surrendered a two-run home run to Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, cutting the Cubs lead to 5-4.

Norwood came in two batters later and retired Jose Pirela for the final out of the inning.

July 15: Norwood’s most recent appearance was his biggest to-date. Jon Lester struck out the first batter of the sixth inning before allowing four straight Padres to reach base.

Norwood entered the game after Lester hit Freddy Galvis, the fourth batter in this sequence, to force in a run. Norwood did walk in a run to cut the Cubs’ lead to 7-3, though he got out of the inning otherwise unscathed, recording a pop out and fly out.

The right stuff

With a four-seam fastball averaging 96.7 MPH (according to Statcast) Norwood looks to be someone who belongs in the big leagues. He has pitched exceptionally with the Cubs in limited action, though things obviously can change fast.

If I had to guess, I predict Norwood returning to Double-A Tennessee relatively soon. This has less to do with his performance and more to do with alternating relievers in and out to preserve the team’s bullpen.

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Ultimately, the Iowa shuttle has more stops to make, but don’t count out Norwood returning on it later this season for a divisional race stretch run. Maybe then it’ll be his last time riding on it?