The Cubs have made a couple of notable changes to their bullpen, activating right-hander Joe Nathan from the disabled list and optioning fellow righty Adam Warren to Triple-A Iowa, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com was among those to report (Twitter link).
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Chicago signed Nathan, a 15-year major league veteran with 377 career saves, in May and placed him on the DL as he continued recovering from 2015 Tommy John surgery. Nathan then racked up 9 1/3 innings with the Cubs’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates prior to his activation. His last extensive action came in 2014 as a member of the Tigers, with whom he threw 58 innings and recorded a 4.81 ERA, 8.38 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and 35 saves in 42 chances. Nathan was far more effective in previous seasons with the Giants, Twins and Rangers, which explains his stellar career numbers (2.89 ERA, 9.49 K/9 and 3.34 BB/9).
With closer Hector Rondon and primary setup man Pedro Strop in the fold, the Cubs won’t need the 41-year-old Nathan to be a late-game savior. But he will provide another option along with the newly acquired Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards Jr., Travis Wood, Justin Grimm and Clayton Richard. The first-place Cubs – whose bullpen is middle of the pack in ERA (3.87, 15th) and K-BB perentage (14.3, 13th) – could further bolster their relief corps around the trade deadline, as they’re reportedly in the hunt for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.
As for Warren, whom the Cubs acquired from the Yankees for infielder Starlin Castro in the offseason, he certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations in Chicago. Before the Cubs demoted Warren, he pitched to a 5.91 ERA over 35 innings and walked nearly five batters per nine frames. From 2013-15 with the Yankees, he amassed terrific numbers (3.23 ERA, 7.65 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 45.3 percent ground-ball rate) over a 287-inning sample size as both a starter and a reliever.