Cubs reliever Luke Little just proved why he will be around for a long time

Punishing weather proved to be incapable of slowing down Cubs reliever Luke Little, as he opened Wednesday's contest against the Colorado Rockies in dominant fashion.
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Chicago Cubs reliever Luke Little took the mound as the team's opener on Wednesday night and, in the process, may have proven to be the most important reliever in Craig Counsell's bullpen.

Amidst harsh weather conditions, complete with gusting winds, a temperature of 35 degrees and rain and sleet mix falling, Little started Wednesday's game and needed just 14 pitches to set down the top of the Colorado Rockies lineup. The 6'8" southpaw looked as calm as ever while slinging his four-seam fastball that topped out at 99 MPH.

We're talking about a guy who grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and went to college in Texas, but Chicago's brutal weather on Wednesday still wasn't enough for Little to even bother putting on sleeves for his first career start.

Luke Little makes Cubs history in impressive back-to-back outings

The most incredible part is the fact that Little was the pitcher who induced the final three outs the previous night, where he threw 12 pitches in the ninth inning. According to the Chicago Tribune, Little became the first Cubs pitcher to complete a game and start the following one since Rick Reuschel accomplished the feat in 1976. These are very encouraging signs from the 23-year-old, who proved in these two games that he has the ability to pitch on short rest and do it effectively.

Little's performance undoubtedly pleased Counsell, who has already made it known that his relievers will be put in tough spots and need to be available in back-to-back games at times. The hard-throwing left-hander was selected for this task because Counsell not only wanted to test his effectiveness on short rest, but also exploit the top-heavy Rockies lineup and allow rookie Ben Brown to build confidence after getting shelled in his debut. The strategy worked to perfection as Little met the challenge and set down the first three Rockies while Brown was able to work four solid innings after him. It will be fun to see how Counsell utilizes similar strategies with Little and others in future games.

Although his sample size in the big leagues is only 9 2/3 innings, Little has impressivelyA never surrendered an earned run and has set down 14 batters via strikeout. If these trends continue, Little may end up being the Cubs' most vital set-up man and possibly the team's closer in future seasons. This type of velocity and durability is very rare for a lefty reliever and the Cubs oversaw Little's development in just a few years. The team chose him in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, and now he is looking like an important cog in the big-league bullpen less than four years later.