Cubs

Cubs add left-handed pitcher to bullpen mix in trade with Brewers

Cubs add left-handed pitcher to bullpen mix in trade with Brewers

The day after the Cubs acquired a new closer, they added a left-handed option to the bullpen.

The Milwaukee Brewers selected Caleb Smith in the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning at the MLB winter meetings and then immediately flipped the southpaw to the Cubs for cash.

Smith is 25 and has pitched only one game above the Double-A level.

Originally selected in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, Smith posted a 3.96 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 27 games (seven starts) in Double-A Trenton last year, striking out 70 batters in 63.2 innings.

With Aroldis Chapman back on the Yankees, Travis Wood still a free agent and Mike Montgomery expected to move into the rotation, the Cubs' bullpen was lacking left-handed pitchers this winter.

The Cubs signed veteran southpaw Brian Duensing last week and Rob Zastryzny is expected to contribute after impressing during his rookie campaign (1.13 ERA). 

Smith represents another option for Joe Maddon's bullpen, but the Cubs have to keep the young pitcher on the 25-man roster all season or else he would go back to his original team (Yankees).

Hector Rondon represents proof Rule 5 Draftees can make an impact when he was selected by the Cubs in 2012, but the organization was in a much different position four years ago than they are now as the defending World Champs with a loaded roster.

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Elsewhere in the Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs lost right-handed pitcher Armando Rivero to the Atlanta Braves.

Rivero will be 29 in February and began his Cubs tenure in 2013 after defecting from Cuba. He's posted a 2.70 ERA and 12.4 K/9 throughout his four minor-league seasons in the Cubs system.

Rivero has spent the last two seasons in Triple-A Iowa, posting a 2.13 ERA, 1.123 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 67.2 innings in 2016.

The Cubs also selected infielder Kevin Cornelius from the Yankees with the 30th pick of the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Cornelius hit .299 with a .393 on-base percentage and .589 slugging percentage in the Yankees system last season, playing 43 games at Advanced Class-A and 13 games in rookie ball.

Teams can protect players from the MLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. For the Triple-A part of the Rule 5 Draft, organizations can protect up to 38 more players on top of the 40-man roster.

The Cubs lost infielder Daniel Lockhart to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Triple-A portion of the Draft.

Lockhart — the 24-year-old son of former big-leaguer Keith Lockhart, who is currently a Cubs scout — played 89 games in the Cubs system in 2016 at Myrtle Beach (Advanced Class-A) and Tennesee (Double-A).

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Darvish gets first win at Wrigley as a Cub. Is the real Yu finally here?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Darvish gets first win at Wrigley as a Cub. Is the real Yu finally here?

Mark Grote, JJ Stankevitz and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The White Sox place Eloy Jimenez on the injured list after another injury in the outfield. Should he be the full time DH?

7:30- With the Sox slumping and the trade deadline approaching, do they need to deal Alex Colome?

9:00- Yu Darvish finally gets his first win at Wrigley as a Chicago Cub. Is the real Yu finally here?

13:00- Bears training camp is 8 days away. Will Mitch improve? And will the kicker situation dominate all of camp?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs could get another bullpen boost soon as Carl Edwards Jr. nears return

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USA TODAY

Cubs could get another bullpen boost soon as Carl Edwards Jr. nears return

Cole Hamels is still likely more than a week away from returning, but the Cubs could get another arm back soon to help augment the pitching staff.

Carl Edwards Jr. threw another outing Tuesday night with Triple-A Iowa, his fourth appearance on this latest rehab assignment while recovering from a left thoracic strain. 

The 27-year-old righty allowed two hits and a walk in a scoreless inning, notching all three outs on strikeouts. He also pitched Saturday and on July 1st and 4th before Iowa also hit their midseason break. He last pitched in the big leagues on June 9.

"CJ's progressing well," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "He's feeling better every time out. Good CJ stuff [Tuesday] — fastball's got some carry, some cut to it. He's feeling good."

As for what comes next, the Cubs don't have a plan in place yet. That will depend on how Edwards continues to feel after his latest outing.

"The one thing with him has been the rebound," Hottovy said. "We talk about the recovery that next day, he's had a couple days where he's like, 'yeah I feel good.' And a couple days where it's like, 'ah, I need another day.' 

"So that's always a thing you want to do with relievers is make sure their recovery and their rebound is there. The last thing you want to do have a guy come up and he pitches and then you can't use him for 2 or 3 days. We just gotta make sure we hit all those checkpoints as well."

Edwards got off to a rough start and struggled toward the end of the 2018 season, but he's a huge piece to the Cubs bullpen puzzle and he was dynamic upon his return from minor-league demotion earlier this year.

From his first outing after being called back up (May 6) until the injury hit (June 9), Edwards surrendered only 3 earned runs on 4 hits and 3 walks against 15 strikeouts in 13.1 innings — good for a 2.03 ERA and 0.525 WHIP.

As the Cubs look to bolster their bullpen ahead of the MLB trade deadline in two weeks, Edwards looms as another addition given his ability to neutralize both right-handed and left-handed hitters and induce weak contact when he's on.

Of course, there's obviously some inherent risk in counting on Edwards to be a reliable piece of the bullpen given the way the last couple years have gone. But if he's healthy and pitching the way he had for a full month before the injury, that's a nice option the Cubs can fold into their bullpen alongside Craig Kimbrel, Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Kyle Ryan.