Over the weekend, Keegan Thompson received more attention for beaning Andrew McCutchen than his work on the mound, but reminded us on Thursday night in Colorado that he has a lot to offer this Cubs team in 2022.
The right-hander, who has appealed his suspension stemming from the incident, came on in relief of Ethan Roberts and was very sharp, tossing 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball as Chicago took down the Rockies by a 5-2 final, moving to 4-2 on the young season.
We’re just one week into the season, but, already, Thompson has given manager David Ross six scoreless innings out of the pen. Perhaps more importantly, though, he’s walked just one batter during that stretch. Control issues plagued him during his 2021 rookie season, evidenced by his 5.2 BB/9 mark.
So far, he’s found success by limiting walks and hard contact alike, slotting into that critical swingman role in the bullpen. Given the injuries facing the starting rotation (Adbert Alzolay and Wade Miley are both still on the shelf), having a go-to guy who can piggyback with starters, especially as arms continue to ramp up early in the year, is going to be key.
Thompson looked sharp this spring, too, and has seemingly carried that into the regular season. In Cactus League action, the former third-round pick struck out eight and walked just one in five innings of work. His pitch mix year-over-year is pretty consistent and he’s found a lot of success with his curve in his first two appearances.
It’s worth wondering if he’ll drop his appeal of his suspension now, too. After all, he’d likely need a few days after Thursday’s appearance – so those three games could slot in perfectly, allowing him to be back for the team’s opener on Monday at home against the Rays.
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Early on, with the glaring exception of Jesse Chavez’ disastrous 2022 debut, the pitching staff has been a major area of strength for the Cubs, who boast the ninth-best team ERA in all baseball. The bullpen has been especially sharp, working to a 2.92 ERA across 24 2/3 innings of work. Thompson has been a big piece to that puzzle – and should continue to be as the season picks up steam.