Brothers took eight-year journey to find old form with Cubs

Rex Brothers recorded his first major league save since Sept. 29, 2013 when he held off the Pirates for a 3-2 win on Friday at Wrigley Field.

Brothers has taken quite a journey since 2013, when he saved 19 games for Colorado and posted a 1.74 ERA.

Pegged as the Rockies' closer of the future, shoulder problems led to a disappointing performance in 2014, and he struggled to regain his old form.

Brothers was actually traded to the Cubs in 2016, but was released in the spring. During 2018-19, at age 30 and 31, he was basically a full-time minor leaguer, toiling in Triple A for the Braves and Yankees, before spending most of 2020 at the Cubs alternate site.

"You want to pitch in the big leagues and you want to contribute, but I think I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the game and how to enjoy it and how to keep it in its right spot, so to speak," Brothers said Saturday. "I wouldn't give any of those years back for anything, I met some amazing people, learned a lot about myself and my teammates. Just really enjoyed the game.

"I always told myself, 'Play the game like you're in high school.' Just do what you love and love what you do, and things started kind of falling into line.

"Obviously, putting in the work and perseverance, through a lot of those aspects, it all just has come together now. I wouldn't give it back for anything."

The Tennessee native credited mechanical adjustments for rediscovering his old success and talked about using his legs more effectively. He hit 96 miles per hour on the final pitch of Friday's game.

"Using the ground better," he said. "I think I got in some bad habits and bad patterns when my health wasn't where I needed it to be. It's kind of taken a while to iron those things out. As simple as it sounds, it really is that simple."

Brothers said he wanted to return to the Cubs this season and so far it's worked out for both sides. The left-hander even had some managing advice for David Ross, based on his history in Colorado.

"Just a guy that wanted me to demand more out of him," Ross said. "He seems like a guy that pushes himself, you would think. ... But just a little bit of a kick in the rear end is never a bad thing from my seat. He kind of told me that in our conversation and wanted me to demand more from him, which was a real good learning lesson for me."

Brothers explained his reasoning for taking a page from the Jimmy Butler playbook and asking to be coached harder.

"I just basically told Rossy a story," Brothers said. "I remember being a rookie and getting in some trouble in some games, falling behind in some counts. Todd Helton over at first when I was back in Colorado, I would hear, 'Psst,' I'd look over at Todd and he'd give me this stern look and he'd say, 'Let's go.' I always seemed to respond pretty well to that.

"So I just told Rossy, let me know when you need more out of me and if you see me slacking, just flat-out tell me, 'I need you to pick it up here' or 'just be better' or things like that. Throughout my life, I felt like I respond better that way."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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