The Cubs have optioned lefty Kyle Ryan to Triple-A Iowa, the team announced amid a series of roster moves Friday.
Ryan, 29, leads all Cubs relievers in total appearances (91) and innings pitched (76 2/3) dating back to the 2019 season, but he missed the beginning of camp while on the Covid-19 related injured list and has yet to get into an official Spring Training game. He’ll build up with the minor league side of camp and at the team’s alternate training site to begin the season, but based on his usage over the past couple of seasons, he should get another look in the big leagues once he’s ready to go.
While the 2020 season was a struggle for Ryan — 5.17 ERA and five homers allowed in 15 2/3 innings — he was one of the Cubs’ most effective bullpen members in 2019. He racked up 61 innings that season, pitching to a 3.54 ERA with a 22.4 percent strikeout rate, an 11.2 percent walk rate and a whopping 58.2 percent ground-ball rate. That showing was enough that, in spite of his 2020 struggles, the Cubs tendered Ryan a contract this winter and agreed to a one-year, $800K deal with him. Ryan’s contract is a split contract, meaning he’ll earn at that $800K rate in the Majors but a $250K rate in the minors.
As Ryan builds back up, his absence could open the door for Brad Wieck or non-roster southpaw Rex Brothers to make the team as a second lefty in David Ross’ bullpen. (Former Phillies lefty Adam Morgan signed a minors deal with the Cubs, too, but is still mending from flexor surgery.) At present, Andrew Chafin is the lone left-handed lock for a bullpen job.
The Cubs also optioned James Norwood and Justin Steele today, and they reassigned five non-roster veterans to minor league camp: Joe Biagini, Jose Lobaton, Michael Hermosillo, Nick Martini and Ian Miller.