Ben Brown's role could be dictated out of necessity for Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs v San Diego Padres
Chicago Cubs v San Diego Padres / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

Cubs rookie pitcher Ben Brown has raised a lot of eyebrows so far in his young career. The 24-year-old righty has served as both a starter and reliever since being called up the first week of the season. He heads into Sunday's action with a 3.93 ERA, 2.96 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP in 18.1 innings. It is worth noting since his first appearance (six earned in Texas) he has pitched to a 1.08 ERA, 1.91 FIP, 17 strikeouts vs. four walks with opponents hitting .161 against him over that span.

Brown, in his last start in Arizona, went six innings last Monday, giving up just one run on one hit before pitching two scoreless relief innings in game two of Saturday's DH. The point is that he has shown promise early as both a starter and a reliever. It is safe to say a lot of Cubs fans would love to see him in the rotation, especially since the Cubs rotation does not have the power arms that other teams do. However, the bullpen struggles might require his services as a reliever.

Brown's most recent appearance came several hours after closer Adbert Alzolay blew his fourth save opportunity of the season. Craig Counsell said Sunday morning that Alzolay would likely not be the closer for that game, and it will be a day-to-day assessment on how to move forward with the handling of the ninth.

While Counsell does not appear to be making permanent decisions on the ninth-inning role right now, it's an outlook to think about. The guy theoretically next in line for the job is Héctor Neris, who did get the save Saturday night, but his early velocity and command issues will want to be resolved. The team's best reliever so far has been Mark Leiter Jr, but he is more of the matchup specialist that comes in certain situations (lefties) so making him a closer has plenty of question marks. Yency Almonte has solid stuff and has shown effectiveness but he can be insanely wild at times with the running action on his fastball.

Ben Brown could be an answer for the Chicago Cubs need at closer.

So, tying back to Brown, could he be an option? As mentioned before, in an ideal world, he would be in the starting rotation or even as a long reliever like we have seen. He has pitched in more than 1.0 innings in every appearance and his eating of multiple innings has been useful since the Cubs starters have not gone very deep into games. However, the Cubs cannot keep blowing late leads like this. They could easily have 3-4 more wins, and we saw how things ended up last year after key games got away late. There is also the fact that Justin Steele will hopefully return soon, and then you have a potential rotation of Steele, Jameson Taillon, Shōta Imanaga, Jordan Wicks, and Javier Assad, allowing Brown to reasonably stay in the bullpen.

Since the situation is fluid, this can be an opportunity for Brown to get a taste of a ninth-inning role. He can get a crack at pitching in a save spot without being cemented into that job right away. He does not even have a cemented role as it is, for that matter. Counsell will do his due diligence with both Brown and his pitching structure.

Last year the Cubs had to figure things out when Michael Fulmer struggled as the closer early on, and it looks like they will have to go through this again. At least they are assessing now and not waiting too long.