The Cubs optioned right-hander Keegan Thompson to Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, with a plan to stretch him out to starter’s inning.
The Cubs announced the move after trading setup man Andrew Chafin to the A’s the night before. Bringing in bullpen reinforcements, the Cubs recalled left-hander Kyle Ryan and right-hander Cory Abbott from Triple-A before Tuesday’s game against the Reds.
“He was going to need a couple days,” Cubs manager David Ross said of Thompson, who pitched three innings Friday against the Diamondbacks and tossed a 27-pitch inning against the Reds on Monday.
The plan, Ross said, is to get Thompson up to something like 40 to 60 pitches – “as many as we feel like he can” – and then move him onto a starter’s schedule.
Stretching out Thompson, who was a starter in the minors before taking on a bullpen role with the big-league team this season, gives the Cubs options with Friday’s trade deadline fast approaching.
Fellow rookie pitcher Justin Steele is already with the Iowa Cubs on a similar plan. The left-hander has made three starts in Triple-A, working up to four innings on Friday.
When ready, Steele and Thompson could fill in holes in the rotation left by any starting pitchers traded at the deadline. Right-hander Zach Davies (6-6, 4.30 ERA), for example, is set to become a free agent after this season and has turned his year around after a disastrous start.
Trade speculation aside, the Cubs could benefit from giving a pair of promising young pitchers major-league rotation experience in a transition year.
The Cubs rotation has already undergone some renovation this month, with Trevor Williams returning from an injured list stint post-appendectomy and Jake Arrieta hitting the IL after struggling in June and recording consecutive 1 2/3-inning starts. Officially, Arrieta went on the IL with right hamstring tightness. Right-hander Alec Mills, who began the season in a swingman role, held onto a rotation spot through the shuffle.