The Chicago Cubs bullpen got off to a horrific start to the season. But over the last weeks, the pen has put it together and top performers have emerged.
The first week of the regular season was like a daily doomsday for members of the Chicago Cubs bullpen.
The relief corps was all over the place, and despite the Cubs scoring plenty of runs, no lead was safe as almost no reliever could be trusted to shut things down in the late innings.
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Sweeping changes appeared necessary, and after a week of play, Carl Edwards Jr. was sent to Triple-A Iowa and Mike Montgomery was put on the injured list. Kyle Ryan and Allen Webster were called up to fill the roster spots.
Ever since then, the bullpen has fueled a team turnaround, as the Cubs enter play Monday at .500 within striking distance of the National League Central lead. The Cubs are now right at the league average in runs allowed per game by the bullpen at 4.65. The pen still has a ways to go, as its ERA still ranks 26th at 5.08. But thanks to several relievers emerging as trustworthy, a turnaround has begun.
Kintzler has been perhaps the best surprise of 2019 so far. He’s currently the Cubs’ most reliable reliever after a dismal second half of 2018. He has a 2.89 ERA, and he hasn’t given up a run since April 3.
Kintzler was the only reliever who looked solid throughout the first week of play, and he’s continued that up to now. His emergence is especially important with Edwards out of sorts, as he can now be considered a reliable setup man for closer Pedro Strop.
There was never much panic about the Cubs’ closer. He’s been consistent throughout his career with the Cubs, but he looked a little off to open the season, giving up a walk-off wild pitch to secure a series loss against the Rangers.
Since that series, though, Strop has been nearly perfect. He hadn’t given up a run since until Sunday, when he blew the save against the Diamondbacks. Still, the Cubs walked it off in the bottom of the ninth, and other than that one blemish, he’s been the closer the Cubs need in Brandon Morrow‘s absence.
The lefty was called up one week into the season, presumably to fill the spot left by Montgomery. Other than a shaky first outing on his first day back in the big leagues, he’s been nearly perfect, as well. He hasn’t allowed a run since April 6 and has thrived in high-leverage situations.
The emergence of a quality left-handed reliever like Ryan is a key weapon for the Cubs’ pen going forward.
The recent performance of the Cubs’ bullpen is proof that a small sample size doesn’t always tell the full story. Early on, fans were ready to call Theo Epstein out for not adding an impact reliever in the offseason, but lately, it’s appeared his trust in the current bullpen may have been warranted. Time will tell if this group can keep it up, but the last few weeks are a promising sign.