Cubs move Drew Smyly back to bullpen, leaving opening in rotation
Drew Smyly is back in the Cubs’ bullpen.
After one time through the rotation, the lefty was moved back to reliever duty, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer told Taylor McGregor on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
“I think at this point he’s likely to be pitching out of the bullpen for a bit,” Hoyer said. “He’s been pitching great for us early in the season. Last year in August, he was amazing. He struggled the last couple of months and obviously, I think we have to get him on track while also winning games.”
The struggles for Smyly have been pronounced — in his last three starts he’s allowed 19 runs on 22 hits and 8 home runs in 13.1 innings. He’s turned in one quality start since the beginning of June and since then has seen his ERA jump from 3.15 to 5.28. The Cubs are 3-7 in his starts since June. He was moved to the bullpen early in August and then brought back to the rotation for Tuesday’s game against the Tigers. He struggled, allowing 7 runs on 8 hits in 3.2 innings.
His struggles coincide with the most pivotal part of the Cubs season — they’re in the hunt for a Wild-Card spot and the NL Central crown but suffered a blow to their rotation with Marcus Stroman’s injury and can’t afford to have struggles from one of their rotation pieces with limited depth.
“We’ll figure out who’s gonna make starts going forward,” Hoyer said.
Smyly’s next turn in the rotation was due to be Sunday, so they’ll have to make a decision rather quickly. The Cubs’ 2021 first-round pick Jordan Wicks has been stellar in Triple-A Iowa (3.82 ERA/1.18 WHIP in 7 starts) and was scheduled to start Wednesday in Indianapolis with the I-Cubs. But he was scratched from the start with no injury designation and threw a bullpen session in the middle of Wednesday’s I-Cubs game.
That usually means a player is being called up and he could be an option to start. But the team has not commented on why he didn’t start.
“He was scratched yesterday,” Hoyer said with a smile.
The Cubs also could opt to start Hayden Wesneski and use him as an opener, piggyback Smyly and turn it over to the bullpen after that. Wesneski isn’t necessarily stretched out, so if he does start, the team would need some sort of bridge behind him.
Keegan Thompson was recalled Thursday, too, and he’s been stretched out a bit. He’s pitched at least 2 innings in 6 of his last 8 outings with Iowa. The Cubs could opt to use him as a piggyback option, too, or he could start as an opener before turning it over to the bullpen.