Twenty-four-year-old Ethan Roberts received some life-changing news from Cubs manager David Ross in the dugout at Sloan Park on Monday. The right-handed reliever found out he made the team’s Opening Day roster and will have a chance to play in the Majors for the first time in his professional career.
He was overcome with emotion as Ross shook his hand in the dugout, and he shared that experience with the media shortly afterward.
"“It’s just life changing for me … it’s something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time.”"
Roberts had just pitched a scoreless inning against the White Sox when he got the news in the dugout. Despite a ball being hit back to him and getting him on his throwing hand, he made the play to first and was fine. Ross even asked him if he could “still shake my hand.”
Welcoming Ethan Roberts to the Cubs roster and bullpen mix
Roberts was taken by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2018 draft out of Tennessee Technological University. He pitched to a 2.93 ERA and struck out 245 hitters in 67 appearances in college, mostly in relief. He spent 2021 between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, pitching to a 3.00 ERA, 0.963 WHIP, 72 strikeouts and 17 walks in 54 innings pitched. He sports a career 3.09 ERA and 1.1 WHIP in 94 minor league appearances going back to 2018.
His performance this spring earned him a spot on the team. In five appearances he surrendered zero earned runs, five hits, striking out seven and walked one. Of all the Cubs relievers he was among the most impressive in Cactus League play.
What makes Roberts a potentially valuable arm is his ability to miss bats. Between NCAA and MiLB he sports a combined 11.4 K/9. Chicago’s overall issue the past few seasons has been having enough arms that can miss bats, so this is a welcome addition. With these kinds of strikeout numbers, he could wind up in the ninth inning at some point. That is a role that is still very up in the air both in the short and long-term.
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It is an exciting time for Roberts and the Cubs could have found yet another solid pen arm. While developing starting pitching has been disastrous over the years, they have done a good job finding and developing relievers. Here’s to hoping Roberts is the next success story.