Cubs

Pair of Cubs relievers trending in opposite directions

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USA TODAY

Pair of Cubs relievers trending in opposite directions

ST. LOUIS — As the Cubs bullpen righted the ship following that 2-7 stretch to begin the season, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Ryan were a big part of the turnaround for different reasons.

Edwards was sent to the minors before that road trip even ended after allowing 6 runs in 3 appearances. With Mike Montgomery also heading to the injured list at the same time, the Cubs called up Allen Webster and Ryan, who immediately helped stabilize their bullpen.

Now, as the Cubs are once again mired in a tough stretch (2-8 in their last 10 games), the opposite is taking place: Ryan is trending downward and Edwards is on the way back up. 

Ryan gave up a pair of homers in Saturday night's loss and has now surrendered 12 hits and 8 runs (7 earned) in 7 innings since he "froze" in the ninth inning of a loss to the Marlins on May 6.

That's a far cry from the previous 12 innings in which Ryan allowed just 2 earned runs (1.50 ERA) and only a baserunner an inning (8 hits, 4 walks). 

Meanwhile, Edwards has been moving in the right direction, allowing runs in only 2 of his 11 appearances since rejoining the big-league bullpen. More importantly, he's walked just 1 batter in 10.1 innings and he's throwing a strike 65 percent of the time.

"When he's throwing his curveball for a strike and not bouncing it and the hitter has to honor that, the fastball becomes even better," Joe Maddon said. "With him, when he's not over-boogeying on the curveball and it can be a strike, that's when he can really be effective."

Edwards has worked mostly in low-leverage situations since being recalled, so he's not yet back to fulfilling his role as the X-factor in the Cubs bullpen. But he carved through the toughest part of the Cardinals lineup Saturday night, retiring Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna in order (with some help from his defense). 

Ryan's precipitous drop in production is even more concerning on multiple levels — when he's struggling, the Cubs don't necessarily have a reliable lefty to go to out of the bullpen (Mike Montgomery's ideal role is a multi-inning spot) and also the fact that Ryan is now getting hit hard after he spent the first month inducing a lot of weak contact and groundballs.

The home runs he gave up Saturday night were only the second and third of the season.

"He kinda looks the same to me — maybe just execution of the pitch or the selection, those kinds of things," Maddon said. "I have a lot of confidence in him. He's a strike-thrower; he normally puts the ball on the ground. Home runs are really unlikely, normally, against him. 

"So I'll just keep moving it forward. They were the right guys for him [to face], but it just didn't play out for him [Saturday]. But I have a lot of confidence in the guy — he's always ready; he's a professional. I do believe he's capable of getting on a good run for us."

The bullpen will always be a polarizing topic surrounding this comes team.

Things should stabilize at least a little bit for the relief corps once Pedro Strop returns (which should be early this week), but it would certainly behoove the Cubs if Edwards continues along this path and Ryan can turn things around.

Cubs' Jason Kipnis sets up unique fundraiser for COVID-19 relief

Cubs' Jason Kipnis sets up unique fundraiser for COVID-19 relief

With baseball suspended indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason Kipnis is using some of his free time to help those in need.

Kipnis announced Thursday he's set up a Cameo account and will donate portions of the proceeds to coronavirus relief and medical workers. Cameo is a video-sharing platform where people can book personal shout-outs from celebrities, athletes, influencers and more.

RELATED: Jason Kipnis airs concerns over challenges players will face when MLB returns

The Cubs second baseman added supporters can request where he donates the proceeds.

Kipnis joins Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins in using Cameo to help those affected by the coronavirus.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Kris Bryant's goal for his son, other trivia facts about Cubs third baseman

Kris Bryant's goal for his son, other trivia facts about Cubs third baseman

Based on his current trajectory, Kris Bryant will go down as one of the best third basemen in Cubs history. In five seasons, the 28-year-old has made three All-Star teams, won Rookie of the Year by a unanimous vote and taken home National League MVP honors.

As he continues adding to his accomplishments on the field, here are a few things you should know about Bryant off of it.

1. Bryant grew up in Las Vegas and played baseball with the Phillies’ Bryce Harper and Rangers’ Joey Gallo, dating back to when he was nine years old.

2. Bryant’s dad, Mike, played professionally in the Red Sox organization. As a minor leaguer, Mike received hitting instructions from Boston legend Ted Williams.

3. In high school, Bryant was named his graduating class’ salutatorian. But he passed the honor onto a classmate with a similar GPA because he wanted her to have the recognition.

4. Bryant married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, in January 2017. They started dating as sophomores and are expecting their first child this month.

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Mr. & Mrs. Bryant!! 📸: @j.annephotography

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5. Bryant took guitar lessons this offseason and said at his introductory press conference this spring that his kid will be a rock star. He noted that Mike will probably push the kid to baseball, though.

Maybe we'll see the first simultaneous rock star baseball player?

RELATED: Top 10 moments of Kris Bryant's Cubs career

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