Interesting Night from Fill-In, Multi-Inning Closer Keegan Thompson

We are still less than a year removed from a time when Keegan Thompson was expected to be a critical part of the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen. He had been so good transitioning into a multi-inning role in 2021 and 2022 that the expectation was he could take on even more of a load in 2023, and the Cubs had eyes on him becoming more of a traditional setup man. It was an understandable next step, given how good he could be.

Unfortunately there were some health issues in there, some extreme effectiveness issues, and I’m just not sure Thompson ever took to recovering on a “normal” reliever schedule. The 2023 season wound up being so bad in the big leagues and at Triple-A that Thompson went from expected-important-arm to maybe-he-can-pitch-some-middle-relief-next-year.

And I don’t want to proclaim that the situation has fundamentally changed just yet, but I will offer the general principle that, when a guy has done it before, it’s always possible he can do it again.

Keegan Thompson returned to the big leagues on Friday when the Cubs decided it was time to swap out Jose Cuas, and he’s now made two scoreless multi-inning appearances, including last night’s two extra innings with free runners on second. Thompson allowed no hits over the two innings, walked one, struck out two, and gave up zero hard contact. His performance was instrumental in the win.

It was a very effective appearance, and an interesting one at that:

I don’t know whether that approach would work every time, but it was certainly effective against an eager Diamondbacks lineup in the biggest moments of the game.

Mostly I just wanted to celebrate another good appearance from Keegan Thompson, and note that it was a second straight multi-inning appearance after multiple days of rest. It can be a little challenging to carry a guy who has to be used in a particular way to be effective, but if this just happens to be Thompson’s thing – if he can be the guy he was in 2021 and 2022 – it is probably better to have him doing this than not have him at all. And he’s still optionable, so the Cubs can move him up and down from Iowa as necessary/desired.

No proclamations yet, though. I like what I’ve seen so far from Thompson. The velo looks good, the cutter looks good, he’s using four pitches well, and he looks like he’s got the confidence again. And a mustache!

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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