Ostrowski: Relief pitchers' roles are always evolving

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery was used five times in the World Series. Some speculate that he will break into the starting rotation soon, but for now he's solid in the relief rotation.

      Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery was used five times in the World Series. Some speculate that he will break into the starting rotation soon, but for now he's solid in the relief rotation. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
By Joe Ostrowski
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 5/6/2017 9:38 PM

Outs 25, 26, and 27. Many believe the last three outs of a game are the most difficult. Some new-age thinkers are certain that closers should be used in high-leverage situations, not just saved for the ninth inning.

Wade Davis wasn't available on Friday after pitching three straight days. Hector Rondon came in to close the game with a 2-0 lead. Brett Gardner nailed Rondon's slider for a game-winning 3-run homer with two outs for the Yankees.

 

Since 2015, the Cubs were 152-0 when entering the ninth with a 2-plus run lead, according to ESPN Stats and Info. That startling statistic makes you realize that Cubs fans have been spoiled with closers. When San Francisco lost to the Cubs in the NLDS last season, it was the Giants' 32nd blown save of the season.

How relief pitchers are viewed in the game continues to evolve. Relievers were paid a ton of money in the offseason and were targeted heavily at the 2016 trade deadline.

Only one closer, Eric Gagne, has won the Cy Young Award in the past 24 years. Eight pitchers captured the award between 1974 and 1992. Dennis Eckersley, Willie Hernandez, and Rollie Fingers even won the MVP.

It's clear that the Cubs value the last three outs immensely, and the front office has made numerous trades to fix the closer position for now and the future. Here's a look at the past and the future:

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Wade Davis: Since arriving in a trade from Kansas City for Jorge Soler, Davis has been everything Joe Maddon could ask for. He hasn't allowed a run in 14 games, including a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities.

Carl Edwards Jr.: Maddon believes Edwards is a future closer. Edwards has a 0.69 ERA in 13 appearances. The 1,464th pick of the 2011 MLB draft was trusted to pitch in Games 5 and 7 of the World Series. Edwards arrived in the Matt Garza trade and doesn't become a free agent until 2023.

Mike Montgomery: Many believe Montgomery will be moved into the Cubs' starting rotation, but he's one of the team's best relievers for now. The lefty has thrown 21 innings in 11 games with a 1.29 ERA. Maddon went to him five times in the World Series. Montgomery came from Seattle in a trade for Dan Vogelbach and he won't be able to hit the open market until 2022.

Aroldis Chapman: Chapman, now back with the Yankees, received his World Series ring on Friday. The dominant closer was the piece that put the Cubs over the top last season. The Cubs sent top prospect Gleyber Torres and three others to get three months of Chapman. Maddon started using Chapman for more than just the ninth in Game 6 of the NLCS.

We have a habit of only talking about the bullpen when things go wrong. If Davis and company continue to lock down the late innings, give them the credit they deserve.

• Catch Joe Ostrowski and Barry Rozner on their "Hit & Run" baseball show each Sunday morning from 9 a.m. to noon on WSCR 670-AM. Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeO670.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.