MESA, Ariz. — It's still early in spring training (Cactus League games haven't even started yet), but it's already a given Justin Grimm will be a part of the Cubs' Opening Day bullpen if healthy.
The question is: In what role?
Joe Maddon isn't one to adopt or announce specific roles for pitchers in his bullpens, but when asked Monday, the Cubs manager offered up another year of the 27-year-old right-hander filling in as the team's "mid-innings closer" again while acknowledging there is room for that role to expand.
"Yeah, I do," Maddon said. "He could keep growing. This guy's got the kind of stuff that finishes games. I think as he pitches more consistently, as he gets older, you'll see more.
"He's got great stuff. He's got a great attitude. He's a great teammate. He's all of the above. As he gets more comfortable mentally just handling the latter part of the game, he'll be able to do it.
"Going into this year, I'd be happy if he was able to fulfill the same role he did last year."
Grimm, however, sees things a little differently. He wants the ball in the late innings in high-pressure situations.
"I've talked to Joe about it. He knows I value myself more than that middle relief connotation they put on it," Grimm said. "I think we're on the same page with that — me and Joe are.
"I'm just here to help this team get to what we want to do. I gotta put my personal things to the side for the team."
Grimm dropped the standard company line in Cubs camp, as everybody works toward pulling the rope in the same direction.
"I truly think I'm getting better with it," Grimm said. "Learning day-to-day, what it takes to stay strong, stay fresh.
"It's just getting that mindset. I think I'm continuing to grow with it."
Grimm has found success as a reliever since coming to the Cubs from the Texas Rangers in the Matt Garza back in July 2013.
In 2014, he led the Cubs in appearances, putting up a 3.78 ERA in 73 games.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
Last year, he got a late start to the season with a forearm injury, but still wound up with 15 holds, three saves and a 1.99 ERA in 62 games.
Grimm also struck out 67 batters in 49.2 innings, ranking ninth in Major League Baseball in K/9 (12.1) among pitchers with at least 40 innings — right up there with some of the top closers in the game like Aroldis Chapman (15.7 K/9), Andrew Miller (14.6), Kenley Jansen (13.8) and Craig Kimbrel (13.2).
This year, regardless of role, Grimm just wants to keep the momentum rolling. He feels comfortable in all his pitches, but knows he needs to use his fastball, too.
"I just wanna build off last year," Grimm said. "It was a great year, but I always expect more out of myself. I'd like to tone down the walks.
"I have the kind of stuff where I'm able to attack the zone and pitch within the zone. I'm just realizing that I have to be on the attack more. I'm at my best when I'm going right after guys."