Cubs hoping a healthy Brad Wieck can anchor the bullpen

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

If you don’t remember seeing the imposing figure of Brad Wieck on the mound for the Chicago Cubs last season, you’re not alone.

The left-hander underwent a second heart procedure after being diagnosed with an atrial fibrillation last July, ending his 2021 season after all of just 15 games. What he did in those 15 appearances, however, was remarkable.

Wieck did not allow a run – earned or unearned – striking out 28 and walking only 10 across 17 innings of work. Since coming to Chicago in 2019, the southpaw has been as good as they come when on the mound. The only problem is that he’s pitched a grand total of 28 innings during that span.

But heading into 2022, he’s hoping to put the last few years of health scares behind him and stabilize a Cubs bullpen that’s promising and ripe with potential, but also very raw and inexperienced.

"“My timing is still a work in progress after not throwing the ball for a while, but it feels great to be back on the mound,” Wieck told the Daily Herald late last week “My body and arm feel very good. It’s just a timing issue right now … “It takes time to sync up your body. And I’m a big dude, so it’s good to get on the mound and figure out that mound timing.”"

He’s already thrown a handful of bullpen sessions, as he continues to re-calibrate his timing and mechanics after a lengthy layoff. As someone who’s almost identically the same size as Wieck, I can attest: it’s a lot of body to get synced up and it’ll take some time (as he himself noted above). Obviously, we can’t go ask the Cubs what the timeline for Wieck looks like because of the lockout, but the fact he’s feeling good and back on the mound bodes well.

Chicago Cubs face a critical shortage of left-handed relief options on 40-man

That’s good news for Chicago, a team that’s searching for left-handed relief answers heading into 2022. Justin Steele stands out as an obvious candidate, but he could very well get a look in the rotation, too. He was stronger out of the bullpen than the rotation in 2021, but that doesn’t mean the club will box him into that specific corner, either.

From there, it’s all question marks. Brailyn Marquez is the only other left-handed pitcher on the 40-man outside of Wade Miley, who has a spot in the rotation on lockdown, and he’ll open the year in the minors after COVID and injuries shelved him last year.

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That just bears out the importance of Wieck staying healthy. Without him, there’s a whole lot of doubts when it comes to left-handed relief help. If he can be anywhere close to what he was before his season abruptly ended last summer, the Cubs will have a formidable force in the pen.