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Don't forget about Brandon Kintzler.

He was the most high-profile of the Cubs' midseason bullpen additions last summer, but struggled out of the gate and faded into the background while less-heralded veterans Jesse Chavez and Jorge De La Rosa emerged as diamonds in the rough.

Chavez and De La Rosa are gone, but Kintzler remains a part of a Cubs bullpen that is firmly under the microscope this spring.

His introduction to the Cubs was forgettable (7.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP in 25 games) but he conceded he put too much pressure on himself and relished the opportunity to hit the reset button this winter.

"Oh yeah, it's definitely [a fresh start]," he said at Cubs camp last month. "I think mentally more than anything. Just getting everything behind you, now settled down with a new team, starting to know the guys. You just get back into your routine and do what you do.

"If you're not mentally right, you're never gonna be physically right. So I think just being mentally home and start all over."

There's no getting around it — Kintzler was part of the reason the Cubs did not have much financial flexibility this winter. They declined his $10 million team option but he still had a $5 million player option, which he immediately picked up.

That $5 million could've gone a long way in the free agent market this winter — especially in augmenting the bullpen — but there's also a very real scenario here that Kintzler becomes a somewhat surprising contributor to the relief corps.

 

Yes, he's 34 (and turns 35 in August). No, he doesn't strike many guys out (6.1 career K/9).

But this is also a guy who has a career 3.48 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 67 holds and 48 saves. He's pitched in every role imaginable in a big-league bullpen and he's been through pennant races. When he's on, he's one of the best groundball pitchers in the game and the Cubs have an infield defense capable of being elite.

And that's exactly what the Cubs want him to do — pound his sinker in the zone and induce a lot of grounders.

When the Cubs were in Las Vegas for the MLB Winter Meetings in December, new pitching coach Tommy Hottovy reached out to Kintzler and made a stop at the veteran pitcher's home in the area to watch him throw.

"That was impressive," Kintzler said. "I've never had a pitching coach come out to my house and watch me play catch. It shows he cares and he wants to help me."

Hottovy is a big proponent of analytics, having spent the last few seasons as the Cubs' run prevention coordinator before his promotion. There's so much information out there for baseball players nowadays and it's the job of Hottovy and the rest of the Cubs coaching staff to weed through it all and whittle it down to the most important nuggets.

That will be imperative to any success Kintzler has this year, who acknowledges the benefits of analytics while also recognizing that all the information can be too much for him at times. 

Last year, he thought he got too caught up with adjusting to the Cubs' way of doing things and away from what he does best.

"When you come to a new team and you're just trying to fit in and see what they do, you kinda get away from everything and try to do what they think you should do or what a scouting report says," Kintzler said. "I've never actually been a huge scouting report guy. I've always just been a 'let's see what happens' kinda guy. 

"I want to get back to doing that and have that mentality. My old bullpen coach in Minnesota was Eddie Guardado and he was all about going in and attacking. That was always my mentality when I was with him, so if I get back to that, I think we'll be alright."

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