Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Former Cubs Closer Signs with Diamondbacks

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Man, injuries stink. A year ago, left-handed pitcher Brandon Hughes was getting ready to enter spring training as one of a few guys who were considered locks to be in the bullpen on the Opening Day roster for the Chicago Cubs. Now, after being non-tendered in November, the lefty has officially moved on and has signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Hughes made his MLB debut with the Cubs in 2022, and was a great story to follow as he transitioned from an outfielder in Class-A to closing out games during his rookie season. Taken in the 16th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Michigan State, Hughes didn’t begin to pitch on a full-time basis in the minor leagues until 2019. He was fantastic in 2021, posting a 1.71 ERA in 42 innings, which got him on the Cubs radar in 2022, leading to his big-league promotion in May.

And who could forget Hughes’ first game in the majors.

The left-handed reliever ended 2022 with a 3.12 ERA in 57.2 innings, while adding 8 saves to his stat sheet. That was a career high in innings pitched for Hughes and who knows if the increased workload led to his knee issues, but the lefty could not stay on the mound in 2023.

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A nagging knee issue that probably also led to his poor results, Hughes recorded a 7.24 ERA in 17 games last year, coupled with other pitchers coming up through the farm system, led to the Cubs cutting ties with him early in the offseason.

Hughes, who is now 28-years-old, will try to rebound in Arizona, getting an invite to spring training.

Hughes didn’t pitch for the first couple weeks of spring training in 2023, and while he tried to push through the pain he began the season on the injured list with inflammation in his left knee. The Cubs activated him off the IL in mid-April, but exactly two weeks later he was sidelined once again with the same issue. Hughes missed the minimum 15 days and was back again, but that knee injury just wasn’t getting better and the Cubs put Hughes on the shelf in June.

The left-hander attempted to come back in September, going out on a rehab assignment in Triple-A, pitching in eight games, but he wasn’t called up by the Cubs in the stretch run.

Along with Hughes, right-handed relievers Codi Heuer and Ethan Roberts were non-tendered back in November. The Cubs did bring back Roberts on a minor-league deal.

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