So, you're saying there's a chance?: Danny Hultzen could be the answer to the Cubs' search for a lefty reliever



Which pitcher in the Cubs organization is a former No. 2 overall draft pick and was selected ahead of Trevor Bauer, Javy Baez, Francisco Lindor, and Anthony Rendon in 2011?  Pay attention, because Danny Hultzen could be an answer to a $100 trivia question on an episode of "Beer Money." He might also be the answer to the Cubs’ search for a lefty reliever.

After the Pittsburgh Pirates selected UCLA's Gerrit Cole with the top pick, the Mariners went for Hultzen from the University of Virginia. He made it all the way to Triple-A next summer, but that's when life started dealing Danny Hultzen some incredible challenges. Not one, but two shoulder surgeries, the first in 2013 and the second in 2016.

"The [number of] people that have had the surgery that I've had is very small, and the people that have come back is basically zero. So, those are not the most encouraging statistics, but I still always believed there was a chance that I could still keep doing it," said Hultzen when I interviewed him a couple weeks ago in Des Moines, IA.

So, you're saying there's a chance.

The money wouldn't be driving the Sisyphean task of another comeback. He'd already made $8.5 million when he first signed with the Mariners. The doctors told him to hang it up and Hultzen went back to school to finish his degree. He was out of professional baseball and serving as a volunteer coach at Virginia while continuing with his rehab. The spark never went out.

"I really don't want to look back at it in 20 years and say I should have given it one last opportunity." 

Hultzen's parents kept encouraging, but despite the incredible physical hurdles he faced, Hultzen says 95% of the challenge has been in between his ears.

"I think the vast majority of it is mental. The points when you're trying your hardest and can't lift two pounds. You're throwing it your hardest and the catcher can catch it with a bare hand. It seems like it's just floating in there."

So, you're saying there's a chance.

Hultzen kept fighting. He kept throwing. The radar gun readings slowing increased. First up to 80 MPH - then 90. Eventually, the Cubs signed Danny at the end of February 2018, and he pitched some in the Arizona league while his fastball made it to 92 and 93 MPH. He then finished last summer with a couple of appearances for Triple-A Iowa.

That's where he is now, but something crazy happened over the last year. Hultzen's fastball has reached as fast as 97 MPH, and more importantly, his arm is pain-free. He throws that heater mixed in with a changeup and a slider that occasionally turns into a curveball. By the way, like most teams, the Cubs could use a lefty arm in the bullpen that strikes fear in opposing lineups.

Maybe it's this fall. Maybe it's next year. Danny Hultzen dreams of that day.

"That's the goal. That's the ultimate goal. As far as it being me constantly thinking about it, you can't operate that way. You can't go out and compete that way. But yeah, it would be a dream come true to be called up. I know I'm doing everything I can to give myself the best chance to do that. Hopefully it comes true."

He might be the best feel-good story in baseball. 

I'm saying there's a chance. 


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