Cubs News

Scott Effross continues to prove he belongs in Cubs’ long-term future

2 years ago • Tony Andracki

As the 2021 season ended, a lot of focus was placed on the Cubs’ homegrown pitching trio of Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele and Adbert Alzolay.

Rightfully so, as all three arms flashed their immense potential throughout the campaign.

But there is a much larger wave of pitching coming through the Cubs system.

Scott Effross fluttered under the radar when he was promoted to the majors in late August but in the nine months since, the sidearming right-hander has become a big part of the team’s future.

Effross debuted on the South Side, surrendering 2 runs in 0.2 innings to the White Sox on Aug. 29 last season.

Since then, he’s allowed just 6 earned runs in 29.2 innings and quickly earned a place in David Ross’ circle of trust.

Whether it’s a spot start, a multi-inning relief appearance, a high-leverage situation with runners on base or simply a clean inning where the team needs a zero, Effross has stepped up to do whatever the Cubs have asked of him.

And all the while, he has thrown strikes.

Effross has faced 121 batters in the big leagues and has walked only 2. Among pitchers with at least 30 innings since the start of 2021, nobody in baseball doles out free passes at a better rate than Effross.

“Every day is a new opportunity and every day is a learning experience for me,” he said. “I try to do my best to show up to the park — whether I pitched the day before or I didn’t — like it’s a new day and take in what I can learn the most.

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can from the older guys and from the ballgame itself. Just try to keep my feet moving forward in the right direction.”

After working out of a jam in the 5th inning Wednesday night, Effross now has a sparkling 1.15 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 17 appearances (15.2 innings).

At 28, Effross is enjoying his breakout a little later in his career than many pitchers. But that’s also because he underwent a drastic change, dropping down to a sidearm delivery in 2019 when the Cubs approached him about a change.

That jumpstarted his career and even the pandemic couldn’t slow down Effross.

Now, he’s finding himself on Pitching Ninja, as he did last week with three straight 2-seam fastballs to San Diego’s Jorge Alfaro that could only be described as “sorcery”:

Effross downplayed the appearance on Rob Friedman’s popular Twitter account, but he did concede it was a bit of a confidence boost.

“I’ve followed him for a long time so to see me pop up there for the first time was a pretty neat honor,” he said.

Confidence has been a big factor for Effross this year. After a taste of action in the majors last season, he now has a belief that he belongs here and can get big-league hitters out consistently.

It certainly helps that Ross, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and bullpen coach Chris Young have done nothing but instill faith in Effross.

“If they have confidence in me, there’s no reason I should doubt myself out there,” Effross said.

He trusts in the coaches’ process, understanding that Ross and Co. will deploy him in situations that maximize his skillset.

Before entering a game, Young gives him a detailed report on each hitter and a direct focus for how Effross can get him out. Then on the mound, the young right-hander relies on his veteran catchers — Willson Contreras and Yan Gomes — to call the right pitch in the right spot.

That allows Effross to simplify everything and focus solely on executing each pitch.

Ross loves Effross’ winding journey to the big leagues and believes it says a lot about the former 15th-round pick (2015) and his ability to rise above adversity. When Brandon Hughes was called up this week and made his major league debut, Ross was reminded of Effross’ own story.

“He dealt with adversity before he got here and was still on a path of learning last year,” Ross said. “There’s a sense of proving you belong. If you look back at Keegan’s year last year and Justin Steele’s, you continue to feel like, ‘OK, do I belong here? Can I get guys out at this level?’

“And what you’re seeing right now — it’s a confidence in himself to get guys out in the zone. That’s the next step Scotty’s taken and he’s doing it against righties, against lefties and he’s doing it in big moments for us.

“You continue to take those steps forward and build confidence and you look up and he’s having a great year so far and done a really nice job for us. I think overall, big picture, that’s growth.”

As the Cubs look to the big picture in building their pitching staff of the future, it certainly looks as if Effross will be a big part of those plans.

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