CHICAGO -- Above anything else, the Cubs need to get the bullpen arms already in the fold collectively back on track. Given the importance of the relief corps and the limited player pool in this short season, adding experienced depth also makes sense.
On Friday, the Cubs agreed to a Minor League contract with former closer Cody Allen, who should be familiar to fans of the North Siders. Allen is the former Cleveland closer who formed a dominant duo with Andrew Miller in the '16 postseason and World Series, though the righty has struggled to stick in the Majors in the past year.
"He's going to try to build back up to the pitcher that we've seen in the past," Cubs manager David Ross said. "He's a guy we've faced, and when he's right and his stuff's right, he's a pretty darn good big league pitcher."
The 31-year-old Allen will join the group of players at the Cubs' alternate training site in South Bend, Ind., bringing Chicago's 60-man player pool to 58 players.
Overall in his career, Allen has turned in a 3.14 ERA with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 153 saves over parts of eight years with the Tribe and Angels. From '13-17, the righty-hander posted a 2.59 ERA and averaged 69 innings and 72 appearances per year.
Allen -- who logged 13 2/3 shutout innings in the '16 playoffs, including two scoreless frames in Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs -- had a 6.26 ERA in 25 games with the Angels in '19. He signed with Texas in the offseason but was released on July 24. Per Statcast, his fastball velocity dropped to 92.2 mph in '19 and has been on a steady decline (down 3-4 mph since '14) over the past several years.
"I'm just looking for somebody to get outs, throw strikes," Ross said after Wednesday's 12-7 loss to the Reds. "Way too many walks from down there. We've got some guys that have got to kind of step up."
• Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has looked strong defensively at the hot corner in the season's early going. That included starting what was ruled a triple play in the seventh inning on Wednesday night. Bryant said he has put in a lot of work on his setup with bench coach Andy Green.
"In the past, I felt like I was a little too low to the ground," Bryant said recently. "Me being super tall for a third baseman, being so low to the ground, then I almost had to come up when the pitch was being thrown. So I didn't really get good jumps, as good as I could've.
"So, I'm trying to stay a little taller at third base in my pre-pitch routine. And I feel a lot more quicker over there. I really like to evaluate things at the end of the year and how I felt throughout the whole year, but right now, I mean, it feels like it's working."
• Cubs quality assurance coach Mike Napoli was back with the team on Friday, following a period away from the club due to testing positive for COVID-19 prior to the intake screening at the start of Summer Camp. Ross noted that Napoli had two negative test results before traveling to Chicago, where he went through screening again.
"He's taken multiple tests, but finally cleared," Ross said. "He's here and smiling and has a fresh haircut. Looks like he's rocking the mullet for us. He brings a little edge. It's nice. Nap's got an energy about him that'll be nice for the group."
• Cubs utility man David Bote headed into Friday's game against the Pirates batting .500 (5-for-10) with two homers in limited playing time in the early going. He also had the highest average exit velocity (101.6 mph), per Statcast.
"He's swinging a great bat right now," Ross said. "Big-time power, up the middle. Good at-bats. Good defense. He's been a nice little, kind of, Swiss Army knife that we can use in a lot of different areas."
"I know everybody wants to play baseball and wants to get this season in. It's fun to be back on the field. It's really fun to be out there and compete. I enjoy coming to the park every day. I think our guys do. There's not a whole lot going on outside of baseball for us. So everybody comes in here hungry, excited. We've got a good vibe going here. Things are good and as long as we stay heightened to that the virus is really in control, and we've got to keep doing our part, I think we're going to be just fine." --Ross