White Sox pitchers see high ceiling for Cubs' Heuer

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White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada spotted Cubs reliever Codi Heuer perched on the wall next to the Cubs dugout Sunday afternoon.

“My boy,” Moncada called from third base, in place to take ground balls before the Crosstown Classic finale.

“How you been?” Heuer said and jogged over to give Moncada a hug.

Ten days ago, the pair had been teammates. Now, they were on opposite sides of the rivalry.

Heuer’s weekend was filled with these kinds of reunions, from chatting with White Sox relivers and pitching coach Ethan Katz in the outfield during batting practice, to facing the minimum in the ninth inning of the Cubs’ extra-inning loss Friday.

For someone who’d only spent last year’s pandemic-shorted season and the beginning of this year in the big-leagues, the White Sox’ 2018 sixth-round pick sparked an outsized reverence from even the White Sox’ veterans.

“We just got so tight,” Heuer said of the White Sox bullpen, before his new team lost 9-3 to his old one. “It's just kind of something you build, it's not something you can create artificially, that chemistry.”

It’s also something, Heuer said, he hopes he can bring to the Cubs bullpen.

Heuer immediately established himself as high-leverage reliever for the Cubs, after the White Sox traded him and second baseman Nick Madrigal for closer Craig Kimbrel. But as the Cubs pick up the pieces after sending out 1/3 of their active roster at the deadline, Heuer’s clubhouse presence could be as important as his role on the mound.

Heuer’s former teammates at least make it sound like his “big personality,” as reliever Aaron Bummer put it, could make that level of impact.

“We lost Codi this year,” White Sox closer Liam Hendriks said, bringing up his former teammate unprompted, “and that's going to be a big blow to the chemistry that we have out there. He's such a good kid. He's got a bright future ahead of him, and I can't wait to see how he develops.”

White Sox ace Lance Lynn, asked Sunday if he had a minute to answer a couple questions about Heuer, flashed a wry smile.

“If it were anyone else, I’d say no,” he said.

Lynn scaled the dugout stairs to talk about a 25-year-old pitcher who he said is “just a good dude” and “there for his teammates.”

When Heuer texted Lynn a little over a week ago to tell him about the trade, Lynn told Heuer to keep his head up.

“They got rid of the heart and soul of their team,” Lynn said, alluding to the Cubs’ trades of Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant. “So, it’s going to be a little bit of a different feel over there. But I told him, go do his thing, show everybody what he’s got and how good he is, and everything else will take care of itself from there.”

Cubs manager David Ross has been mixing and matching back-end bullpen roles since the trade deadline, when the club sent out Kimbrel and  setup men Andres Chafin (A’s) and Ryan Tepera (White Sox). Heuer and Manny Rodríguez are now the two young pitchers who have shown closer potential.

Heuer’s former Sox teammates noticed it too.

“He knows that he’s better than everyone out there,” Bummer said. “And that’s not to say that it’s cocky or it’s too much, but he’s an extremely confident human. He’s got the stuff that can put anybody away. … He definitely had the mentality of, he wants the ball in the biggest spots.”

Heuer debuted for the White Sox during the 60-game 2020 season. The rookie posted a 1.52 ERA and didn’t allow a run in the month of September. He was less dominant to start this season, recording one or two multi-run outings a month. But his record with the Cubs is so far scoreless.

“The fun thing about Cody is, he obviously had success last year and a really good year with the White Sox,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “But he's hungry. He's hungry because he knows there's more there.”

Heuer has been working on a new grip for his fastball. And already at Denver last week, he tried out the adjustment on the mound. When he came into the dugout after throwing a one-hit inning, Hottovy asked how many of his fastballs had been with the new grip. All of them.

“I'm looking forward to get settled here at Wrigley with all the resources that have here and definitely dive into it a little more,” Heuer said. “But it's been a little eye opening. It's been really cool.”

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