Javier Assad made a spot start for the injured Jameson Taillon and after allowing two solo home runs in three innings the Chicago Cubs bullpen shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers for the next five innings. Then, in a 2-2 game, Michael Fulmer came in to pitch the ninth inning and he once again looked awful.
The Cubs had a busy offseason, but they decided not to sign a proven reliever with a long track record of saving games. The front office signed Fulmer in February, hoping that he could take the reins as the team’s closer in 2023. So far in three weeks, it does not appear as though Fulmer is the man for that job.
What’s been so frustrating is that Fulmer does give you the glimpses of dominance, like when he struck out two in the ninth inning against the Brewers on Opening Day or when he recorded a two-inning save against the Texas Rangers, striking out four in that game. But then you look closer at his outings and yeah, relievers will walk guys, but Fulmer has now allowed a hit and/or walk in eight of his nine appearances so far this season.
There are relief pitchers that will make you nervous because there’s seemingly always a runner on base and Fulmer is that guy in this Cubs bullpen. And what happens when you keep getting into bad situations? You have to give in and then you get beat.
I don’t know if it’s a mechanics issue for Fulmer, if he just doesn’t have the feel for his pitches right now or what, but we were all screaming at our screens when he got Jason Heyward to a 1-2 count with one out and runners on the corners and then walked him.
Now, I know David Ross is the one giving him the ball in these close games, but again I’m sure there was an understanding with the team and Fulmer when he signed that he was going to start off as the closer. Well, after two blown saves and then the disaster on Thursday night, you have to imagine that Fulmer’s role will be changed in the bullpen moving forward.
I was thinking this right in the middle of the ninth-inning melt down on Thursday and maybe it is a meatball take, but Fulmer did close out games with the Detroit Tigers and was fine with the Minnesota Twins, but maybe some guys just can’t handle the pressure of being the closer for the Chicago Cubs.
I don’t know, every time Fulmer has been on the mound this season he looks extremely uncomfortable and well it’s probably because there’s always a runner on base.
So, who should take over closing duties?
I love that Keegan Thompson can come in and shut down a team for multiple innings, but how about the Cubs start maximizing those appearances because pitching two innings against the Oakland A’s in a blowout isn’t optimal.
Until a younger pitcher with electric stuff comes up like Jeremiah Estrada, give me Keegan Thompson closing out games for the Chicago Cubs and give Michael Fulmer the 2020 Craig Kimbrel treatment and hopefully Fulmer figures it out eventually.
Estrada is with the Cubs.