Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Hunter Bigge Flashes Closer Stuff in Cubs Debut

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Right-handed pitcher Hunter Bigge made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday night and boy was he a breath of fresh air closing out a 9-2 win. Isn’t it nice to have a reliever come in and fill up the strike zone with dominant stuff? Bigge retired the side in order in the ninth, which included his first MLB strikeout on a 100mph fastball.

Bigge, 26, began the season on the injured list because of an oblique strain that sidelined him until the end of May. The righty had a chance to break spring training in the bullpen, but he didn’t pitch again until his rehab assignment on May 28, and wasn’t officially activated from the injured list until June 4.

There’s a reason Cubs fans have been clamoring for Bigge’s big-league promotion. While the Cubs were struggling to find an answer to close out games, Bigge was mowing down hitters at Triple-A. In 11 appearances with the Iowa Cubs, Bigge recorded six saves and struck out 19 batters in 11.2 innings. The right-hander only gave up one earned run, a solo home run, and two total hits in those 11 relief appearances with Iowa.

He has a fastball with cutting motion that sits in the upper 90s and reaches triple digits. His newly developed slider is filthy and during his Cubs debut Bigge definitely flashed closer stuff.

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Hunter Bigge might be special for the Cubs.

Sure, it was a 9-2 game, a low-pressure spot for Bigge, but he still made it look easy on the mound. He threw 13 pitches, 11 for strikes. Wow, a reliever who can actually throw strikes and not get crushed. Bigge threw 7 fastballs that averaged 98.9mph and besides the strikeout he got a popup to the catcher and a grounder to end the game.

Now, Bigge was only called up this past week because Colten Brewer broke his left hand punching the dugout wall at Wrigley Field on Saturday. So, who knows how many more chances Bigge gets, but he is the exact type of arm that the Cubs need in the bullpen. Let’s hope Bigge stays up for good.

Injured Pitchers Update

Mark Leiter Jr. was activated from the 15-day injured list Tuesday and he pitched a scoreless inning of relief against the Orioles. It was a quick 1-2-3 eighth inning that included a strikeout of Gunnar Henderson.

Leiter went on the injured list because of a forearm strain, but it wasn’t a serious issue as the righty missed the minimum amount of time. Leiter had been one of the most reliable Cubs relievers to begin the season, posting a 0.90 ERA through his first 20 innings.

The veteran righty has a career 3.60 ERA as a reliever in 147.1 innings with the Cubs.

Julian Merryweather made a rehab appearance with the Iowa Cubs Tuesday night and looked good. Merryweather has been out of action since early April because of a rib fracture.

Merryweather threw 11 pitches and struck out two batters as his fastball sat between 95-96mph.

Meanwhile, Caleb Kilian made his third rehab appearance and pitched two scoreless innings for the South Bend Cubs.

Kilian made his return to the mound on July 2, when he touched 100mph with his fastball.

It will be interesting to see if the Cubs continue to try and see if Kilian can be a starter or if they believe he’s better suited for a reliever role. Kilian has struggled avoiding barrels despite a pretty good fastball at Triple-A and in his limited time in the majors, but maybe it plays better out of the bullpen.

Oh and how about Ben Leeper, who also pitched Tuesday night for South Bend. The 27-year-old has been in the Cubs system since 2021, but he’s only pitched 84 total innings in the minors. Believe it or not, Leeper is coming back from his THIRD Tommy John surgery.

Finally, the Cubs end this week with a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals that includes a double header on Saturday. This past weekend, Kyle Hendricks was lifted after two innings against the Los Angeles Angels, but it sounds like he’ll be good to go against St. Louis. Javier Assad also appears to be ready to come back from the injured list to start on Saturday.

Assad threw a bullpen on Tuesday.

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