The merry-go-round that is the Chicago Cubs bullpen is whipping around at full speed, but the latest addition to the big league club could be a huge piece.
The Chicago Cubs made a roster move Saturday morning, calling up left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno and placing Allen Webster on the IL, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. The club signed Cedeno, 32, as a free agent this offseason but he missed the first month due to a wrist injury. The southpaw spent the beginning of the season in extended spring training and making rehab appearances in the minors.
Currently, the Chicago bullpen is all over the place, despite some of the recent success it had the last few weeks of April and in the Cardinals series last weekend. Two blown saves against the Marlins earlier this week and a complete meltdown against the Brewers Friday (though the Cubs were shut out so it did not really matter). All of this topped off with the fact Pedro Strop is headed back to the IL and closer Brandon Morrow is nowhere near being ready. They need all the help they can get.
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The Cubs brought in Cedeno on a pretty team-friendly deal with the hopes he could be a significant part of their relief corps. While guys like Steve Cishek, Brad Brach and Brandon Kintzler have good ERAs, they are all righties and the Cubs could use some more reliable lefty pen arms. Mike Montgomery just came back from an injury himself and Kyle Ryan has shown flashes of being effective but has had some rough outings as well. If Cedeno is fully healthy again he can provide a solid left-handed presence going forward.
Cedeno’s success and capabilities.
He kind of flew under the radar last year, but Cedeno had a very solid season. In 48 appearances between the White Sox and Brewers, he pitched to a 2.43 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.96 FIP, 9.2 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9. He is a career 3.69 ERA pitcher in 175 2/3 innings.
His one glaring weakness last year was the walk rate, which was a little higher than desired. However opposing batters hit just .210 off him with a .590 OPS, managing just one long ball against Cedeno. and only one home run surrendered. He was able to pitch around walks and not get hit hard in the process. Having a lefty reliever that can miss bats can give Joe Maddon some more options in later innings.
Will he be somewhat rusty to start the MLB season? It’s very possible, given he’s working his way back from wrist problems, but if he does what he has done in recent seasons he can be very useful. One also can hope that pitching coach Tommy Hottovy can help cut down on some of the walks. Overall, Ryan and Webster were basically spot-fillers and now a proven veteran can take the reigns in bigger situations.
Once Strop returns, hopefully, there will be a more solidified structure in the pen. Maddon has not named a regular closer for now with him on the IL. It will basically be a rotating door with Cishek getting the bulk of the time. If Strop’s injury proves to be worse than expected they may just go out and find more help.