Near the end of the 2021 season, Codi Heuer looked back on his first full 162-game campaign in the major leagues.
“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind,” Heuer said.
You can understand why. Heuer was speaking from outside the home dugout at Wrigley Field, barely a year after he broke into the big leagues with the crosstown White Sox.
“It's been fun, though,” Heuer said. “No complaints ever. I get to play the game I love every day, and it's been awesome. Seeing both sides of Chicago, playing at Wrigley, it's been great, man.”
The Cubs made a series of signings before MLB’s lockout that figure to help their chances to compete in 2022.
But don’t forget about what’s returning from 2021, some of which is familiar even though it’s relatively new.
That includes Heuer, who will be settling in as a key back-end arm in David Ross’ bullpen by the time 2022 spring training gets underway.
“I see myself having a big role in this bullpen going forward, and that's the only way I'd like it,” Heuer said in the final weeks of the 2021 season. “Hopefully have a little bit of a leadership role and do big things in that bullpen.”
The Cubs expect the same thing. They acquired Heuer for that reason.
“His demeanor is great,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said in August. “He's cool and calm and collected. He likes the ball in big moments, and he's not afraid of those. He's got the makings of being a really good back-end bullpen piece for us for a long time.”
Heuer flashed his potential as a late-inning reliever with closer potential for the White Sox during his impressive debut season in the shortened 2020 campaign.
He had an up-and-down first half of 2021 before the Cubs acquired him in a trade deadline deal that sent All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to the South Side.
Heuer, who held a 5.12 ERA in 40 appearances with the Sox in 2021, turned things around post-trade. He made 25 appearances with the Cubs, posting a 3.14 ERA.
He pitched in a variety of situations for Ross — the bulk of that work coming in the mid-to-late innings — and was reliable more often than not. Six of the 10 earned runs Heuer allowed with the Cubs came in three of his final four appearances.
“This first full season for me, it's nice to get it under the belt,” Heuer said. “It's a long ride. You ride the wave the whole time, and it's always good to get the first one out of the way.
“Now I know how I can attack the offseason, get ready for the next one, maintain a little more strength and stuff like that.”
The Cubs bullpen was their biggest strength last season before the deadline behind the dominance of Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera.
Heuer is an important piece to the puzzle.
“That bullpen is great,” Heuer said. “We've got a lot of great arms and it's going to be fun to watch going down the road.”