Chicago Cubs: Kyle Ryan proving to be an asset out of the bullpen

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

When the Chicago Cubs signed left-handed reliever Kyle Ryan in the offseason, no one seemed to bat an eye. But after a strong start to the season, he’s quickly making a name for himself in the Cubs bullpen.

The Chicago Cubs signing of Kyle Ryan last winter was hardly a flashy one. If anything, it looked like it was just a move to add depth, as they signed him to a one-year minor league deal.

But Ryan has turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise this season. With Mike Montgomery on the injured list and Randy Rosario struggling, he has quickly become the Cubs best left-handed option out of the bullpen.

Ryan proved that with a strong statement against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who bolster a strong lineup of left-handed hitters. He entered the eighth inning in a tight spot, with one out and runners on first and second. After he allowed a single to Corey Seager to load the bases, he struck out A.J. Pollock. Ryan then retired Cody Bellinger, who’s been one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, via a ground ball to leave the bases loaded.

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The left-hander went back out for the ninth inning and set the Dodgers down in order to secure the Cubs win. He pitched a strong inning as he struck out two-left handed hitters, Joc Pederson and Max Muncy.

That was quite an outing, coming from a guy who started his season in the minor leagues. He got his shot quickly due to a strong showing in spring training and early on the Cubs bullpen was in disarray.

Ryan made his Cubs debut out of the bullpen against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 6. He didn’t pitch all that bad, but the box score would lead you to a different conclusion.

He only pitched 2/3 of an inning and struck out one, but he left with runners on first and second base after allowing a soft single and a walk. Immediately after Ryan was pulled, Allen Webster surrendered a home run to Ryan Braun, which charged two runs to Ryan’s line. So all-in-all he didn’t allow the runs to score, but he was responsible for them in the first place.

Ryan has been pitching lights out

Since making his debut, Ryan has tossed 5 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, with the exception of allowing two inherited runs to score in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Over that span, he’s struck out nine batters and walked just three while scattering four base hits. He has also lowered his ERA of 27.00 down to 2.84. Aside from reliever Tim Collins, who has only pitched in four games, Ryan sports the best ERA out of the bullpen.

It certainly doesn’t all fall on one man, but the bullpen’s performance has significantly been better with Ryan in it. In the first seven games of the season, without Ryan, the Cubs bullpen posted an 8.54 ERA which was the second-worst in all of baseball. Now, over the last 14 games with Ryan in the bullpen, the Cubs are pitching to the tune of a 2.72 ERA, which is the third-best in baseball over that period.

Look, I know how baseball works. I know that one man being called up doesn’t single-handedly fix a bullpen. I know Ryan isn’t out there pitching in every inning or every big situation he’s only appeared in seven games and pitched a total of 6 1/3 innings. But something about the Cubs bullpen has changed since Ryan got called up and it’s hard to argue with those results.

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Ryan has certainly relished in his early opportunity to pitch with the Cubs and has taken full advantage of it. If he continues pitching the way he is, he will be a great asset to the Cubs bullpen in either lefty-lefty match-ups or late-inning situations.