Cubs shift Drew Smyly to bullpen as they look to maximize pitching staff
The Cubs know they need wins.
That’s why the Cubs are shifting lefty Drew Smyly into a relief role.
“Drew will go to the ‘pen for probably a short amount of time,” manager David Ross said before Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Mets in the series finale. “We’ll assess.”
Smyly has struggled in his last two starts, allowing 12 earned runs on 14 hits and 2 walks in 9.2 innings. Since May 28, the lefty has a 7.22 ERA and 1.73 WHIP. The Cubs and Smyly have been trying to right the ship — against St. Louis a couple of weeks ago, the Cubs used an opener in front of him and the second time, it was pretty successful, allowing 1 run on 2 hits in 4.1 innings.
But one outing isn’t enough — not when the Cubs are trying to chase down a playoff spot. So, Smyly will move to the bullpen while the Cubs look for the best options to start for them going forward.
“I think some of that just comes from a lack of just confidence or lack of just consistency of doing it over and over again,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “Sometimes getting guys in the bullpen in short bursts, to kind of reset and get your mind back into attacking the strike zone and simplifying things is the corner that you need to turn to like then realize like, ‘OK, now I’m feeling that success, now I’m seeing all those things play out over time.’”
The Cubs announced their starters for the 3-game, weekend set in Toronto — Javier Assad will start Saturday, Justin Steele will go Saturday and Jameson Taillon will take the bump in Sunday’s finale.
“We’ve got a lot of off days, so he’ll give us some length in the ‘pen while we have those off days and then try to reassess once we get to a regular schedule,” Ross said.
The Cubs wrapped up a stretch of 16 straight games with Wednesday’s game against the Mets. They have an off day on Thursday and then two more next week, so the Cubs can manipulate their rotation a little bit while keeping Steele, Taillon and Wednesday’s starter Kyle Hendricks on somewhat of a normal 5-day routine.
That’s not including the return of Marcus Stroman, who is eligible to come off the 15-day IL on August 16, when the Cubs play the White Sox.
In that time, the Cubs will lean on Smyly out of the bullpen to provide length and give them a left-handed option, something they’ve lacked since optioning Anthony Kay to the minors last week.
“I think looking at upcoming matchups, we’re trying to optimize those, give us the best chance to be successful and win as many games as we can in this stretch,” Cubs senior VP of pitching Craig Breslow said. “Putting him in the ‘pen fills kind of both a need there in terms of giving us some length out there and a left-handed option and also getting a guy in Javi [Assad] who’s been throwing the ball really well a chance to match up in Toronto.”