Why Cubs' latest spring training cuts mean little left for bullpen

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Tim Stebbins
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Not much left for Cubs' bullpen after latest spring cuts originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Considering the Cubs’ starting rotation will be entirely right-handed, they’ll need at least a second lefty to join Andrew Chafin in the bullpen.

So pencil in Rex Brothers or Brad Wieck, right? Not so fast.

“If we go with a second lefty, those two guys are in the mix for sure,” Cubs manager David Ross said Friday.

If?

The Cubs made their latest round of spring training cuts on Friday, leaving just three lefties in camp. The assumption this spring has been they would carry two southpaws on a righty-heavy staff that might include as many as 14 pitchers.

That may not be the case.

There is some nuance to the Cubs’ situation this spring. Friday’s cuts included Kyle Ryan, Justin Steele and Brailyn Marquez — the latter two always figuring to start the season in the minors. 

Ryan, the big name of the trio, hasn’t debuted this spring. He’s building up his arm strength after being delayed earlier in camp by COVID-19 protocols. He’s progressing, Ross said Friday, but the club wants to get him to a place where he can handle multiple innings in a single outing.

Wieck has only made two appearances this spring. He missed most of 2020 with a right hamstring strain and experienced a setback earlier this spring, so he’s also still ramping up. But as Ross said, he's well in the mix for the Opening Day bullpen.

Wieck's second spring outing came Friday, when he threw a scoreless frame with three strikeouts.

Brothers, a non-roster invitee, has looked the best of all the lefties this spring (six scoreless innings). If the Cubs go with a second lefty and it’s Brothers, they’ll have to add him to the 40-man roster.

The Cubs believe they have right-handed pitchers who can get lefty hitters out. But it's rare for a team to have just one left-hander on their pitching staff. The Cubs had three in the rotation alone at the same time as recently as 2019.

Even last season, they had multiple lefties in their bullpen at various points, along with Jon Lester in the rotation.

So, if they only go with one lefty to start the season, they'd be in unique territory.

But that's a big if.

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