Old Friends Pepper Tuesday’s Notes on Relief Pitchers

Because Cubs-adjacent news is better than no news at all, at least for some of you, this brief segment features updates on a few old friends. I find it a little interesting that the Cubs have been tied to so many starters with various degrees of organizational ties, yet things have largely remained hush-hush when it comes to the bullpen. Not that fans are clamoring for reunions with the pitchers listed below.

Former closer Héctor Rondón has had stints in Houston and Arizona since leaving the North Side and now he is joining the Phillies on a minor league deal. The righty posted 10.35 K/9 last season, the second-highest mark of his career (10.83 in 2017), but his career-high walk rate washed much of that out. He also allowed six homers in just 20 innings, leading to a career-worst 7.65 ERA and 6.59 FIP.

Rondón gave up a lot of loud contact, but he’s only 32 — Are you as shocked by that as I was? — and his fastball is still just a skosh below 96 mph. The issue is that he was grooving it, which isn’t a great strategy when you’ve lost a tick over time.

Brandon Kintzler knows a little something about losing velocity, though he was never possessed of Rondon’s power to begin with. The 36-year-old sinker-baller pitched to a career-best 2.22 ERA over 24.1 innings with the Marlins last season, not including the time he struck out the side against the Cubs in the postseason. He had only struck out three or more batters nine times in 458 career appearances (including four previous playoff games) and had struck out the side on just three previous occasions.

Prior to that performance at Wrigley back in October, the last time Kintzler struck out three straight was April 2, 2013, when he was with the Brewers.

He recorded 12 saves for Miami in 2020 and there has reportedly been mutual interest in a return engagement despite the Marlins paying a $225,000 buyout rather than picking up Kintzler’s $4 million option. However, as noted by Craig Mish and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Marlins have yet to make a formal offer as they continue to “seek cheap bullpen help.”

Finally, former Cub Spencer Patton has agreed to a minor league deal with the Rangers after spending the past four seasons with the NPB’s Yokohama BayStars. The 32-year-old righty last pitched in the majors with the Cubs in 2016, logging 21.1 innings over 16 appearances for the World Series champions. He’s fallen into obscurity since taking part in that incredible season, but I suppose that’s better than having fans actively hating him as is the case with some star players.

The Cubs seem to be pretty content with their own bullpen at this point, particularly after re-signing lefty Rex Brothers to a minor league deal. That one snuck under the radar, just as subsequent deals will likely do. We’re probably going to see a relief corps that features a lot of young pitchers being shown the ropes as the Cubs throw a bunch of stuff on the wall to see what sticks.

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