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Cubs Bolster Bullpen With Under-The-Radar Pickups

The Cubs’ bullpen was a significant strength in 2015, when the team finished third in the National League in ERA. To repeat that performance, the front office has added more pieces for manager Joe Maddon to choose from, more options for the back of the bullpen to keep arms fresh and churn through a demanding season.

That led to offseason acquisitions such as righthander Spencer Patton, acquired in November from the Rangers for shortstop Frandy de la Rosa. Patton was a Triple-A all-star in 2015, going 2-0, 1.67 with 11 saves in 26 games for Triple-A Round Rock, but struggled in 27 outings for Texas, with a 9.00 ERA and 12 walks in 24 innings to go with 28 strikeouts. He’s a sinker-slider pitcher who pitches in the low 90s with a low-80s slide, and at 28, he’s fairly established as a potential ground ball guy. A less established piece, also added to the 40-man roster this offseason, was righthander Andury Acevedo, signed to a major league deal as a minor league free agent on Nov. 18. Acevedo originally signed as a position player with the Pirates in 2007. It’s hard to believe now that Acevedo is listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, but he signed as an infielder, even playing 15 games at shortstop in 2008 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The Pirates released Acevedo after the 2010 season, but he reinvented himself as a pitcher and earned a contract with the Yankees, who signed him in February 2012. Acevedo has moved quickly, reaching Triple-A with the Yankees in 2015 after starting the year with high Class A Tampa. He was a Florida State League all-star and hit 98 mph when Cubs scouts saw him, usually sitting 95-97 with life down in the zone. While Acevedo doesn’t have a great feel for his offspeed stuff, he attacked hitters with a hard cutter that at times reaches 92 mph but has more of a slide shape at lower speeds. He’s never thrown more than 60 innings in a full pro season, so Acevedo likely would be stretched to be a key late-inning piece in Chicago in 2016. But he has the arm to earn innings in Chicago this season. CUBBYHOLES • Righthander Jon Pettibone

Spencer For Hire—Memoirs of a Gaijin: Japanese Style

American pitcher Spencer Patton is adjusting to pro ball in Japan.

signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and got an invitation to big league spring training camp. Pettibone, 25, twice ranked as the Phillies’ No. 4 prospect and went 5-4, 4.04 in 2013 in Philadelphia. Two shoulder surgeries later, he missed the entire 2015 season and became a free agent in November. • The Cubs signed righthander Tommy Nance as a minor league free agent out of the independent Frontier League. The 6-foot-4 righthander pitched collegiately at Long Beach State and Santa Clara, then struck out 40 in 38 innings of relief for Windy City lat year.

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