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Cubs receive massive boost to bullpen ahead of final series

9 months agoAndy Martinez

MILWAUKEE — A beleaguered Cubs bullpen picked up its biggest reinforcement Friday.

Closer Adbert Alzolay was activated off the 15-day IL, with Keegan Thompson being optioned to the Arizona Complex League. The Cubs open up a 3-game set Friday in Milwaukee with their playoff lives on the line

“It’s gonna help out a lot. We’ve missed him when he’s out,” manager David Ross said. “He’s been a big part of our success, so having him back helps us shorten the game, hopefully, which we haven’t been able to do lately. When we get one of our better arms back, it’s extremely exciting.”

Since Alzolay went on the IL on Sept. 10, the Cubs have a league-high 8 blown saves, allowed a .751 OPS against (6th most in the NL) and have a 4.08 ERA. The Cubs have lost 5 games this month in which they have held a lead in the 8th inning or later, which is tied for the worst such month in the last 50 years:

What version of Alzolay the Cubs will be getting is the real question — he hasn’t pitched in a major league game since Sept. 9 and coming back from a forearm strain is no small feat.

The back end of the Cubs’ bullpen had been set for most of the year — Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. as setup men and Alzolay as the closer. Since Alzolay went down, Ross has seen Merryweather and Leiter face their own issues.

Leiter blew a save on Wednesday in Atlanta, his first appearance in a week. Since Sept. 10, Merryweather has a 5.68 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 6.1 innings of work. With the Cubs’ playoff hopes in jeopardy, they’ll need one — if not all three — of them to step up.

Thompson was recalled on Sept. 23, but did not appear in a game since then. He’s struggled this season, posting a 4.71 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 28.2 innings. His 15.2% walk-rate is well above league average (8.6%).

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