The 4 relievers Cubs already plan for 2023 bullpen


Even after trading their top four relievers at the deadline last month, the Cubs have a good starting point for their 2023 bullpen.

Look no further than Rowan Wick, Brandon Hughes, Codi Heuer and Adbert Alzolay.

“If you're looking into next year, Ro has definitely established himself as a big-league bullpen piece,” manager David Ross said Friday. “Hughesie has had a great consistent season.

“Hopefully we can get Cody back. I think Adbert Alzolay can get back healthy and be a real piece. 

“There's four right there without even kind of grinding right now.”

The Cubs roster for 2023 is fluid, especially in the bullpen. There’s a little over six weeks remaining for guys to emerge and room for additions in free agency.

And Heuer and Alzolay, the two young talented pitchers, still have to show they’re back from injury. Heuer, a key acquisition last summer in the Craig Kimbrel trade, underwent Tommy John surgery in March.

Alzolay hasn’t pitched this season due to a lat strain but recently began building up in Arizona.

But assuming health, a core four of Wick, Hughes, Heuer and Alzolay is a solid foundation for the 2023 bullpen.

After a rough stretch in June, Wick has a 1.26 ERA over his last 13 appearances and has been Ross’ go-to guy in save spots since the deadline

Hughes, a converted outfielder who made his big-league debut in May, has a 3.03 ERA in 36 appearances, striking out 49 (13 walks) in 38 2/3 innings.

Heuer showed his potential as an impactful late-inning arm after joining the Cubs last August.

Alzolay posted a 1.40 ERA across eight relief appearances last September, when the Cubs moved him to the bullpen to monitor his workload. His ability to go multiple innings is valuable in today’s game. 

The foursome of Wick, Hughes, Heuer and Alzolay is only scratching the surface of the Cubs’ internal relief options. They've also annually added bullpen help in free agency, like David Robertson, Mychal Givens and Chris Martin last winter.

This upcoming free agency class includes veterans with late-inning experience like Brad Hand and Zack Britton.

"I think we'll see a lot from these guys that have gotten called up,” Ross said. “[Michael] Rucker has been up and down and done OK. I think [Erich] Uelmen has got the ability to continue to develop and help us out a lot. 

“[Mark] Leiter [Jr.] has actually I thought really turned into a real helpful piece down there. [Anderson] Espinoza does good when he's come up here. 

“Are all those guys gonna fit down there, [be] pieces for next year? We got to look at all that and how that plays out in the offseason. But there's some things and some stuff coming from everything that I read and hear.”

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