Chicago Cubs need bullpen help, but boast several bounceback candidates

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Does the veteran have anything left in the tank?

On the heels of a breakout 2017 campaign, the Cubs inked veteran southpaw Brian Duensing to a two-year, $7 million deal. While it was probably unwise to expect him to match his standout showing (2.74 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 2.6 BB/9), no one expected such a dramatic regression in 2018.

Out of the gates, it was business as usual for Duensing. He did not allow a run in 13 appearances over the first month and pitched to a reliable 3.86 ERA in the month of May. But a red flag loomed – he was walking as many guys as he struck out. Through the end of May, the lefty struck out 12 and walked 11.

Then, everything completely unraveled.

A recurring shoulder injury sapped him of his strikeout ability and his walk rate skyrocketed. Over the final two months of the regular season, he pitched just 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs and walking four.

Getting a healthy Brian Duensing back doesn’t change the back end of the Cubs bullpen. But it would certainly deepen the arsenal of manager Joe Maddon and help extend the life of the pen. With Justin Wilson out the door via free agency, this team desperately needs its left-handed relievers to step up.

For Duensing, it’s simple. Cut down the walks. For a guy who averaged 2.8 BB/9 heading into 2018, you have to hope (and pray) he comes closer to hitting that mark instead of the 6.9 BB/9 we saw from him last season.