I tend to be a very observant individual as the stool at my local watering hole allows it. If you remember my first blog, I painted a picture of myself at the corner stool. I refer to it as the broadcast view of the bar. As the regulars, out-of-towners, and business folk fill the bar, there is always one man who sits alone in silence. This man is usually sipping a spirit on the rocks and may end up muttering four or five words to the bartender just to order another round. I was told by my father as a young boy that “the quiet ones are usually the one with a good story.” Often times in my travels, I attempt to strike up a conversation with the mute in the corner only to learn a fascinating story that most would have gone without.
This man to me reminds me of Cubs relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler so far this season. If you weren’t a huge Cubs fan, you may look at Brandon as a fan who had just won a one-night raffle to pitch the seventh inning, but Kintzler has been far more than a bum off the streets for the Cubs so far this season. The right-hander was acquired at last year’s deadline from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Jhon Romero. Kintzler came to Chicago while exiting an unhealthy Nationals clubhouse and was immediately thrown into a pennant race. While many, including myself, expected Kintzler to add depth to an already deep Cubs bullpen, he struggled. He posted a 5.66 ERA in only 18 innings of work and quickly found himself out of Joe Maddon‘s circle of trust. The Cubs eventually lost the division to the charging Brewers and Kintzler was left with a decision to make.
Kintzler entered the 2019 offseason with a player option worth $5 million to stay with the Cubs, and he exercised that option to stay in Chicago without hesitation. Low expectations were set for the 34-year-old right-handed sinker-baller from Las Vegas going into the 2019 campaign. While external perception was, Brandon expected better of himself. He has pitched himself into high leverage situations and served as Joe’s Swiss army knife of the bullpen. Kintzler has posted a 2.30 ERA to begin the season and has been an anchor for a shaky bullpen all while barely making a splash in the media.
Who knows where the Cubs would be without Brandon Kintzler. Let’s recap the bullpen for a second — Carl Edwards Jr. has been up and down from Triple-A, Brandon Morrow has not pitched in a Cubs uniform since July of last year, and Steve Cishek has had a rollercoaster start to his season. Through all of this Salt (clubhouse nickname), Kintzler has been a model of consistency. He uses his sinker to consistently get groundball outs when needed. This brings me to my point from above. Often times, the guy who is barely discussed is the most important. The man in the corner silently sipping his spirit with the comeback story is the backbone of this Cubs bullpen. So next time you head to your local bar, order up a shot of tequila and don’t forget the Salt.
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