Cubs News

Cubs add exciting young weapon to the bullpen as Manny Rodríguez makes his return

2 years agoTony Andracki

MILWAUKEE — One of the Cubs’ intriguing young bullpen pieces from a season ago is back in the fold.

Manny Rodríguez was activated off the 60-day IL Friday and joined the Cubs bullpen in Milwaukee. To clear room for the 26-year-old right-hander on the roster, the Cubs optioned Kervin Castro to Triple-A Iowa and moved Alec Mills to the 60-day IL.

Rodríguez was thrust right into the action Friday, coming on for the 10th inning tasked with preserving the Cubs’ lead. He accomplished just that, inducing a game-ending double play with the bases loaded to pick up his 2nd career MLB save.

Rodríguez was called up to the big leagues after the trade deadline last summer and made his MLB debut in Washington D.C. on July 30 with a pair of strikeouts in a perfect inning. It was just another step in his inspiring journey.

He went through his ups and downs in 20 appearances down the stretch, pitching to a 6.11 ERA and 1.70 WHIP but he also showcased dynamic stuff, averaging 97.2 mph on his fastball and occasionally touching triple digits on the radar gun. He was ultimately shut down in mid-September with shoulder inflammation.

This season, Rodríguez didn’t make the Opening Day roster out of Spring Training and appeared in only 2 games for Triple-A Iowa before hitting the shelf with an elbow strain. He finally returned to the mound earlier this month in the Arizona Complex League and also pitched in 3 games for Iowa over the span of a week.

Now he’s back in the majors with plenty to prove over the final six weeks of the season.

“First of all, I want to show that I’m 100% healthy,” Rodríguez said through team translator Will Nadal. “Once I do that, I just want to show that I belong, that I can be here with the team, that I can be out there whenever they need me and stay here the rest of the season.”

The Cubs added Rodríguez to the 40-man roster after the 2019 season even though he had yet to pitch above A-ball at that point.

He has the potential to be a high-leverage reliever at the back end of the Cubs bullpen.

In the minors last season, Rodríguez had a 1.31 ERA and 11.8 K/9 in 20 appearances. After returning from the elbow injury this month, he racked up 12 strikeouts and allowed a lone run in 6 minor league innings.

Injuries have been the story of his career thus far. First it was a biceps strain in 2020 and then the shoulder injury last season and the elbow strain this year.

Even though he’s 26, Rodríguez still has a lot of development left due to all the missed time.

“[We want him to] continue to hone in what he does well,” David Ross said. “Maximizing his strengths is something we focused on. Making sure he’s getting in the zone with his best pitches the most. I know he likes his changeup a lot but I think he can utilize the 2-seam and 4-seam and the breaking ball probably a little bit more and hide the change a little bit more.

“Just getting back to what the information’s gonna tell us that plays well for him against right, vs. left. And continue to maximize that. I think that’s the program he’s gonna be on while he’s here. We’ll see. Last year, it felt like it was a big mix of a lot of different stuff and let’s just get in the zone with what you do well, with your strengths and let the hitter tell us when we need to adjust.”

Rodríguez felt like he learned a ton from his time in the majors last season and he’s trying to carry those lessons forward into this year.

“I know that I can throw hard but not just that — [it’s about] location,” Rodríguez said. “Here in the big leagues, it’s really important. If you miss by an inch or you miss by a little bit, they’ll punish you.

“It’s just about that location and knowing where I want to place my pitches when I’m out there.”

As he rehabbed at the Cubs’ complex in Arizona, Rodríguez focused a lot on his secondary pitches. He also spent a lot of time watching and learning from Adbert Alzolay, who is also working his way back from a lat injury.

“I think Adbert really helped me out with how he prepares, his work ethic and how with every pitch he’s throwing, he’s trying to dominate and knows where he’s placing it and what he’s doing,” Rodríguez said. “That helped me and I think I’m gonna take that now that I’m here in the big leagues.”

The Cubs understand Rodríguez is still building up after so much time off so they won’t overwork him. They’re just happy he’s back in the majors with another opportunity to show what he can do.

“The fact that he’s healthy now and back here,” Ross said, “we’re all really excited about him.”

Don’t Miss Out On The Action!

Sign up for the Marquee Sports Network Newsletter today for all the latest Cubs news, plus upcoming Marquee programming and much more!

Newsletter Signup
Consent *
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.