For Chicago Cubs reliever Julian Merryweather, locked-in mechanics and health has been a consistency game changer

19 July 2023

Staying healthy has been a challenge at times for right-hander Julian Merryweather.

The Chicago Cubs’ reliever always possessed electric stuff, but his inconsistencies often stemmed from unreliable mechanics and struggles to stay off the injured list. Both areas have come together as Merryweather and the Cubs hoped when the organization claimed him off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays in January.

“Staying within my delivery, my mechanics have had ups and downs this year, but I feel like when my mechanics are right everything comes from there,” Merryweather told the Tribune on Tuesday before the Cubs took a 17-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. “My lower half — legs and hips — really drive the whole delivery for me, just timing, my rhythm, everything comes from there, like all the velocity.”

Merryweather’s emergence as a go-to option in high-leverage spots will likely have teams inquiring about the 31-year-old if the Cubs sell at the trade deadline. Since May 27, Merryweather owns a 2.25 ERA in 21 appearances — five earned runs in 20 innings — with a .206 average against.

“I mean, the main difference this year is feeling closer to 100% most games,” said Merryweather, whose fastball averages 97.7 mph. “You’re not going to feel 100% every game, especially as a reliever. But just feeling close to actually competitive whereas in the past, I had nagging this, nagging that. Now I feel like I can really focus on competing and working on my pitches and having in-game adjustments being made this year has been tremendous.

“For me, going through the growing pains of pitching in all these games and then being healthy for this amount of time, you learn a lot so it’s been great.”

Merryweather owns the best strikeout rate of his career at 30.9% though he’s also seen an uptick in his walk rate (12%). Merryweather’s swing-and-miss stuff is particularly valuable with how manager David Ross has utilized him. Of his 54 strikeouts entering Tuesday’s game, half have come with runners on base. Opposing teams are batting .219 with only two extra-base hits in 87 plate appearances in those situations.

“If you’re in the game in those situations, that’s where you want to be,” Merryweather said. “It means the team’s playing well, it means we’re ahead and winning games. So as a bullpen, we have guys that are down there that are hungry for those innings and we have guys ready to step up and get outs late in the game.”

Swanson, Madrigal continue to work back from injuries

For a second consecutive day, Dansby Swanson (bruised left heel) and Nick Madrigal (right hamstring strain) took batting practice as they continue to make progress with their injuries.

Swanson still needs to clear his biggest hurdle to get back on the field: running. Ross said Monday that pain remains in Swanson’s heel when running. He had been eligible to come off the injured list Sunday.

“Progressing slowly just like you would expect with a bruised heel,” Ross said. “He feels it in some things, slowing down still gives him a little trouble. He hadn’t even hit a base or anything yet, just running straight. … But pushing the envelope as much as he possibly can. We don’t want any setbacks.”

Morel scratched from lineup

In a pivotal stretch of the Cubs’ season and big-picture hopes, they cannot afford to lose any other key contributors.

Christopher Morel was scratched from Tuesday’s lineup because of neck tightness, and the team said he was available off the bench. Miles Mastrobuoni instead got the start at second base for Morel, who’s been getting the starts there with Nico Hoerner shifted to shortstop in place of Swanson.


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