Cubs swap out bullpen arms
MILWAUKEE — The Cubs added a new bullpen arm Saturday afternoon, recalling southpaw Locke St. John from Triple-A Iowa.
In a corresponding move, the team sent Mark Leiter Jr. back down to the minors.
St. John, 29, made 5 appearances for Iowa this season, posting a 5.14 ERA and 1.86 WHIP in 7 innings.
He has typically been utilized as a multi-inning reliever, getting at least 4 outs in all but 1 of his appearances. On Tuesday, he threw 1.2 shutout innings on 47 pitches.
“Got a little bit of length from the back side,” David Ross said. “This is a series where an extra left-handed arm makes a lot of sense. These guys got a lot of left-handers in the lineup and will give us another option to match up if we need to.”
The Cubs used both of the lefties in the bullpen (Daniel Norris and Sean Newcomb) in Friday’s game. The Brewers have a handful of impactful left-handed bats, led by Christian Yelich and Kolten Wong.
St. John signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in November. He made 3 appearances with the big-league club in Spring Training, tossing 3.1 shutout innings.
The Cubs sent St. John to Triple-A to begin the season and on April 16, they added the southpaw to the 40-man roster, designating outfielder Greg Deichmann for assignment to clear room. Saturday marks his first call-up to the big league team.
He has some MLB experience, pitching in 7 games for the Texas Rangers in 2019.
St. John said his familiarity with the team from Spring Training helped him feel more comfortable as he arrived in the visiting clubhouse in Milwaukee on Saturday. He doesn’t know yet how he’ll be utilized out of the bullpen but is up for anything.
“[I’m at my best when] I’m being aggressive,” he said. “Just try to be as aggressive as I can in the zone and say, ‘here you go. Here’s my stuff.'”
St. John appeared in Saturday’s game, tossing 2 innings. He started out in a groove, getting 5 straight outs (including 3 strikeouts). But then the Brewers touched him up for back-to-back-to-back extra-base hits that led to 3 runs.
Meanwhile, Leiter heads back to Iowa after two weeks in Chicago. The Cubs want him to get stretched out more and have a few items for him to work on.
He was initially called up to the majors on April 16 and made 3 starts with the team. He only went 2 innings his last time out (Wednesday) and came out of the bullpen Friday to throw a scoreless frame with 3 strikeouts.
Leiter showed some flashes during his stint with the team but also got into trouble facing lineups a second and third time through. He heads down with a 7.84 ERA and 1.74 WHIP through 10.1 innings.
“We’re gonna need a starter at some point down the road,” Ross said. “Getting him back to multiple innings is really all it is. He’s thrown the ball well at times. Had a couple innings that weren’t as clean for him and just getting back on his routine and getting back into giving him some pointers of things we think he can improve on.”
On Monday, the Cubs will have to pare their roster down by 2 players as the limit moves from 28 to 26 players. At least one of those moves figures to be a pitcher as the team has a pair of off-days in the upcoming week (Monday and Thursday) and won’t need a fifth starter until May 10.