Cubs add another bullpen arm in Givens

March 23rd, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- David Robertson held court with reporters in front of his locker on Thursday morning at the Cubs' complex. Adrian Sampson had a name plate and gear in his stall. Robert Gsellman walked through the room in street clothes.

By the afternoon, the Cubs had announced the signing of reliever Chris Martin, and ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported that Chicago had an agreement in place with righty Mychal Givens on a one-year, $5 million deal (that deal, which includes a mutual option for 2023, was officially announced the following Wednesday, although financial terms were not disclosed by the club). This list of arms rolling into camp keeps growing.

"I feel like I've met everybody," Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said. "And then I show up the next day, there's somebody new. But it's a good thing. Yeah, it's awesome, man. We're getting some really good arms."

Two of the Cubs' internal options for late-inning work -- Codi Heuer (right elbow) and Brad Wieck (left elbow) -- are already on the 60-day injured list due to recent injuries. That has created an urgent need to bring in bullpen depth, which was already a need before those setbacks.

The 36-year-old Robertson, who will earn $3.5 million (plus $1.5 million available in incentives), is an experienced MLB veteran with setup and closing experience. Injuries have limited the righty in the past three seasons, but he had a 2.59 ERA with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 520 games from 2011-18 with the Yankees and White Sox.

"It's a good fit for me. It's a strong team," Robertson said. "It's a great city. I've lived in Chicago before. I just thought that I could mix in here and probably pick up some late innings in the back end of this 'pen. They were very convincing."

Givens brings another late-inning option to the fold. Last year, the 31-year-old righty had a 3.35 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 27 walks in 51 innings for Colorado and Cincinnati. In seven seasons, he had a 3.41 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He averaged 94.7 mph on his fastball in '21, per Statcast.

Sampson is back with the Cubs as a non-roster invitee, following a standout showing (2.80 ERA in 35 1/3 innings) down the stretch with the team last year. Gsellman's agreement is not official, but the former Mets righty (3.77 ERA in 17 games in '21) is expected to also be in camp as an invitee.

Over the few days, the Cubs have also brought in veteran Jesse Chavez (officially in camp as a non-roster invitee), and reached agreements with lefties Steven Brault and Daniel Norris, per reports. The deals with Brault and Norris have not been confirmed by the club.

Hendricks makes spring debut
Hendricks knows this will not be like Summer Camp in 2020, when the righty was able to be ready for a complete game come Opening Day. In this abbreviated spring, the veteran is hoping to build up to six innings in time for the April 7 season opener.

That process started in Thursday's 4-3 split-squad loss to the White Sox. Working with new Cubs catcher Yan Gomes, Hendricks faced nine batters in two innings, logged around 40 pitches and was charged with one run on three hits with two strikeouts.

"It felt good. It was good to work with Yan," Hendricks said. "I accomplished a lot of things I was going out and trying to do. Really establish my fastball. Get down in the zone. Just keep everything under control and have a good pace to everything. I got a lot of good swings from my end. A lot of positives, really, to build off."

Cubs greats back in camp
Before Thursday's workout, manager David Ross gathered the players around and introduced Hall of Famer Billy Williams to the group. Ross read off Williams' long list of accomplishments. Former Cubs greats Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Rick Sutcliffe have also been in camp.

"It's the best," Ross said of having the former players around the team again. "We've missed that. I've missed that. I think the players have missed that. When you get guys like Andre Dawson, Sut, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, when you're able to introduce those guys, have those guys talk baseball around your group, there's nothing better."

"He's going to be a piece of that bullpen, along with a lot of the arms that are slowly trickling in and some guys that we've had here. That bullpen stuff always kind of works itself out as we go through camp and where guys are at. But he'll be a piece in there that we'll rely on. He's got really good experience and a pretty good track record." -- Ross, on Robertson

Up next
Right-hander Marcus Stroman is set to make his Cubs debut on Friday, when Chicago hits the road to Scottsdale, Ariz., to face the Giants in a 9:05 p.m. CT tilt. The game will be aired on Marquee Sports Network and will be available free on MLB.TV.