Well, this explains why left-handed pitcher Brandon Hughes has looked quite shaky so far in spring training. We never want to over-speculate about injuries, but it was noticeable, especially early on in Cubs camp that while most of the relievers in the bullpen mix were pitching in Cactus League games in Arizona, Hughes was only throwing in the back fields at the team’s training facility.
Now, a week before Opening Day, we’ve learned that Hughes has been dealing with a knee issue since joining the club down in Mesa, Ariz. There have been questions raised in the past week on Hughes’ sluggish spring and his now unknown status for Opening Day. The lefty hasn’t pitched in a week, but he’s hoping to get back into game action this week.
As far as being in the bullpen for the start of the season? Well, that’s still up in the air. The Cubs are hoping Hughes doesn’t have to begin the year on the injured list.
Hughes made his MLB debut with the Cubs las year. He was great as a rookie, posting a 3.12 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 57 appearances. He was even given closing duties in the second half of the season and ended the year with eight saves. The lefty struck out 68 and walked 21 in 57.2 innings.
Last year was also Hughes’ biggest workload since becoming a pro. He threw 74.1 total innings between his time in the minors and with the Cubs in 2022, more than 30 innings from his 2021 innings total.
I’d be willing to bet that the Cubs won’t try to rush Hughes back just to be ready for Opening Day. The team’s pitching depth allows them to keep Hughes down for a few weeks until his knee issue is completely gone and he can get back to being effective on the mound.
If Hughes does indeed begin the year on the injured list, then you should expect either Mark Leiter Jr., Ryan Borucki or Anthony Kay to make the team. I’d lean toward Leiter and Borucki both making the bullpen, with Hughes and Keegan Thompson both having problems in spring training.
Borucki pitched in Wednesday’s game against the Oakland A’s. The left-handed pitcher recorded his 13th strikeout this spring, trailing only starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Hayden Wesneski for most strikeouts on the Cubs.
Meanwhile, Leiter had reverse splits in 2022 with the Cubs, absolutely dominating left-handed hitters with his splitter out of the bullpen.
If I had to guess what the eight-man bullpen looks like on Opening Day, then I’d go with the following.
Adbert Alzolay, Javier Assad, Mark Leiter Jr., Rowan Wick, Ryan Borucki, Julian Merryweather, Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer.
This Week on Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast
We had Joe Johnson, the creator of Obvious Shirts, as our guest on this week’s Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast. His Andrew Chafin story is fantastic.
Subscribe on YouTube! We’ll be giving away a pair of Cubs tickets once Pinwheels And Ivy gets to 1,000 subscribers.
Meanwhile, you can get 20% off baseball shirts from Obvious Shirts with promo code PINWHEELSIVY20