Something about the Toronto Blue Jays really caught the Cubs scouting department’s attention because the front office picked up not one, but two pitchers from the waiver wire this offseason from up north. Now, as we’re less than two weeks away from spring training coming to a close, right-handed reliever Julian Merryweather is well on his way to winning a bullpen job with the Cubs.
The Cubs acquired Merryweather in January and he entered spring training on the team’s 40-man roster. He probably had an edge over some of the other guys competing for a bullpen spot as Merryweather does not have any minor league options left, meaning if he doesn’t make the team out of camp then the Cubs may likely lose him. Still, Merryweather had to show he was worthy of being in the Cubs bullpen on Opening Day and so far he’s making the decision easy.
Merryweather made his fourth spring training appearance Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies. The 31-year-old faced five batters, only allowing one hit, while striking out two in 1.1 scoreless innings. Merryweather’s stuff has looked nasty for the Cubs, allowing only three hits and one walk in 4.1 innings so far in spring training.
The righty hasn’t allowed an earned run in his four appearances and Merryweather is also turning heads down at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., where he’s been lighting up the radar gun. The Cubs haven’t had a lot of firepower in their bullpen for a few years, but Merryweather is certainly bringing the heat.
According to the Cub Reporter, Merryweather was throwing his fastball between 96-99mph against the Rockies Tuesday night, with his slider hitting 88mph.
Here he is closing out a win for the Cubs over the Cincinnati Reds with a 98mph fastball.
Yet, as rosy of a picture I’m trying to paint of Merryweather here, there’s a reason he was available on waivers. He wasn’t necessarily holding it down with the Blue Jays, posting a 5.64 ERA in 52.2 innings in parts of three seasons in Toronto. Merryweather has also had a rough time dealing with injuries, missing time in 2021 with an oblique strain and an abdominal injury also cost him time in 2022.
But a guy who can throw in the upper 90s will always make a believer out of someone and for the time being that’s the Cubs. And to be fair, like I’ve said many times this offseason with every random free agent signing of a pitcher or waiver pickup, the Cubs pitching infrastructure has been pretty damn good at turning around pitcher’s careers in recent years.
And hey, sometimes all a player needs is a different set of voices giving advice and making small changes that can unlock the potential. Even Blue Jays fans, as frustrated as they were with Merryweather, saw the glimpses of greatness from him.
Julian Merryweather came into spring training trying to lock up a job in the Cubs bullpen and at this point he has very much earned it.
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