Fatigue issues notwithstanding, the Chicago Cubs bullpen sorely missed the presence of any type of left-handed long man down the stretch in 2018.
Although Justin Wilson became one of Joe Maddon‘s most reliable arms down the stretch, he ultimately proved to be the only feasible option in high-leverage situations. Randy Rosario and Jorge De La Rosa were steady for the Chicago Cubs, but their inexperience often forced the Cubs skipper to turn elsewhere when he desperately needed outs.
Looking ahead to 2019, Chicago’s bullpen should be bolstered by Mike Montgomery after the veteran lefty was forced into the starting rotation due to injuries sidelined Yu Darvish and poor performances by Tyler Chatwood left the staff shorthanded.
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Montgomery has made his feelings about being a starting pitcher known in the past, and he was more than serviceable filling out the rotation this past season. Montgomery had a 3.69 ERA in 19 starts for Chicago, providing some clarity to a group that had already experienced their share of tumult in the first few months of the season.
But with the Cubs turning a new page in 2019 and getting all of their projected starters back and fully healthy, Montgomery has far more to offer out of the bullpen than he might as a spot starter.
After being acquired from the Seattle Mariners in 2016, Montgomery posted a 2.82 ERA in 38 1/3 innings for the Cubs and was called upon to get the final out in Game 7 of the World Series.
Montgomery was equally stellar out of the bullpen in 2017, logging 61 1/3 innings in just 30 appearances out of the bullpen and posting a 2.49 ERA in said role.
His ability to come into the game and give multiple innings of quality work is part of what makes him such an asset to the Cubs moving forward. Not only does he provide Joe Maddon with another left-handed option, but also saves the other relievers from being forced into extra duty or pitching nearly every day.
Given his pedigree of success and the asset of being another dependable and experienced lefty alongside Justin Wilson, Montgomery is a critical piece to Chicago’s bullpen. Of course, whether he remains as a reliever is dependent on the health of the Cubs’ starters, but in a perfect world, Montgomery will be back in the picture as an option in the later innings.