Rex Brothers sounds like a family-owned auto body shop, but he’s actually a pitcher whose mechanics are better suited to re-tiring hitters than cars. That was the case as of 2015, anyway, but the 32-year-old lefty is making an improbable push for a spot in the bullpen after another strong outing in which he struck out four White Sox over two innings Friday afternoon. With 11 strikeouts and three walks through six innings, Brothers may be turning back the clock.
Best known to baseball fans in general for his time with the Rockies, some of you may actually remember his brief stint with the Cubs as well. He came to Chicago via trade in November of 2015, but was released after just four months with the team and didn’t pitch professionally during the 2016 season. He bounced around with the Braves and Yankees since, but has logged a total of only 23.2 MLB innings over the last three seasons and hasn’t retired a big-league hitter since 2017.
So wait, what appeal did he have for the Cubs this time around? For one, he was cheap. But he’s also a strikeout artist whose fastball has averaged over 95 mph and can touch a few ticks higher. Brothers’ career 10.52 K/9 is offset by a 5.21 BB/9, however, so his fastball/slider repertoire makes him feel almost like a left-handed Dillon Maples. If he can limit the walks, there’s a lot of value in a southpaw whose relatively neutral splits allow him to go more than one inning.
Exactly how much value the Cubs perceive there is going to depend on more than just how Brothers pitches over the remainder of camp. Kyle Ryan is a lock for the Opening Day roster and Brad Wieck figures to be in the mix as long as he’s recovered sufficiently from his heart ablation procedure to ramp up in time for the start of the season. While MLB’s new three-batter minimum helps balanced lefties, the 13-pitcher max isn’t working in Brothers’ favor.
Ryan pitched to similar splits and Wieck has actually been tougher on right-handed batters, so it’s really a matter of trying to capture one of the six remaining bullpen spots. Counting the other presumed relievers, it’s really just two or three spots. Again, that’s if Wieck is ready to go. A delay in his rehab would appear to create the most likely window through which Brothers can sneak onto the roster, if only because the Cubs have so many other options from the right side.
And Brothers still has two minor-league options remaining, so maybe he ends up sticking around to provide depth. At the very least, he is putting together a really strong audition for other teams in need of lefty bullpen help.