Keegan Thompson off to terrific start in Chicago Cubs bullpen

This past offseason the Chicago Cubs made some major changes in their bullpen bringing in some new faces. New faces were needed after trading away key names like Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, and fan-favorite Andrew Chafin last year at the trade deadline. One familiar face from last season who is still around and making his presence known is Keegan Thompson out in the bullpen.

This Chicago Tribune article described Thompson perfectly in their title with including the quote from Kyle Hendricks, “he’s just dominant right now.”  Hendricks is right because Thompson is just so lethal out there to start off the 2022 campaign. There is no better word to describe his pitching out there on the mound at the moment than dominant.

Thompson so far in the 2022 season has not given up a run in 9.2 innings pitched. In those 9.2 innings pitched he has struck out 11 batters, only given out 2 free passes with walks, and allowing just 4 hits to the opposition. It is a small sample size, but not many guys around the league in the bullpen can say they have as good of stats as Thompson two weeks into the season.

This is year two for Thompson pitching at the major league level for the Cubs. Last year in 2021, Thompson made 32 appearances, starting in 6 of those games. He finished the season going 3-3 with a 3.38 era. He started out his big league career throwing a scoreless inning against the Cincinnati Reds. There were a few spot starts after being called up, but pitched majority out of the bullpen. Then towards the end of the season the Cubs gave him a few more starts in the rotation. Those last few starts were a bit rocky compared to his time in the bullpen.

Flash forward to 2022 and Keegan Thompson was not one of the five selected to be in the starting rotation. This sure is looking like the right call with how well he is pitching in relief. He also just looks more comfortable out there again in the bullpen. His array of pitches has been key in his dominance out there on the mound. Thompson has a fastball, curveball, and a really nasty cutter to keep the hitters off balance and not sitting on one pitch. Tampa Bay Rays player Ji-Man Choi will be the first to tell you how nasty Thompson is out there on the mound after watching this video below.

Another key to Thompson’s success is his ability to attack hitters. His confidence is extremely high right now, so that helps with coming in and attacking hitters right away. He is doing a great job of coming in and consistently throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count. Getting ahead in the count and being effective does not allow the hitters to get comfortable in the box. There also is going to be a lot of confidence in your stuff when you have not given up a run in 9.2 innings of work.

Respect could be another word that you can use to describe Thompson on this Cubs roster. It is still unclear if Thompson was told to hit Brewers outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the opening series by manager David Ross, or if he did it on his own. One thing that is for sure now is the respect from catcher Willson Contreras, and others if he did not have it already on his end. Going out there and having your teammates back day in and day out goes along way in the clubhouse.

From Thompson’s time in the bullpen last year, and now in 2022 so far it sure seems like the Cubs have found an elite reliever in their bullpen for hopefully many years to come moving forward. You can never have too many quality arms on the roster. Thompson is hoping to get his number called in this upcoming series against the Pirates a few times to help the team raise the W flag at Wrigley Field.

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