Depending on a reliever returning from Tommy John surgery is not ideal for any Major League Baseball team but that is what it has come down to for the Chicago Cubs as they await the return of right-handed relief pitcher Codi Heuer.
The Cubs’ bullpen has been a disaster this season with the latest example coming in the team’s 7-6 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
The Cubs had a 6-1 lead over the Astros on Wednesday heading into the eighth inning as the team appeared to be well on the way toward ending their 4-game losing streak. Mark Leiter Jr, Keegan Thompson, and Brandon Hughes proceeded to allow 6 runs during the final two innings of the game, and that resulted in an Astros’ walk-off win and the Cubs’ losing streak extending to five games.
The Cubs bullpen has had its struggles this season and it is directly tied to the ineffectiveness of Thompson along with veteran relievers Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger. Fulmer has been relegated to pitching in low-pressure situations while Boxberger and his ERA over 5 are currently on the IL. With Thompson faltering of late, the late-inning options for the Cubs’ manager David Ross are dwindling.
Fortunately, Heuer is close to returning after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Heuer is currently completing a minor-league rehab assignment with the Iowa Cubs while on the 60-Day IL. Heuer has 5 strikeouts through 3.1 innings pitched this season with the I-Cubs and is eligible or return from the IL at the beginning of June.
When the Cubs acquired Heuer from the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline in 2021, the long-term vision was for Heuer to emerge as a closer in the bullpen. Of course, at the time, the Cubs could not have known that Heuer would require Tommy John surgery. And now, with Heuer’s return imminent, the idea of throwing him immediately into high-leverage situations is not ideal but is what the team’s struggles in the bullpen have led to.