Cubs minor league southpaw Danny Hultzen is finally getting a shot at the big leagues, per multiple reports from Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation and Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. The club is expected to formalize the promotion in the near future, though they have yet to announce the move or any related roster reshuffling.
Whenever it happens, it will be the culmination of a long and weary road for the 29-year-old lefty. Hultzen was selected by the Mariners in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft and, together with fellow left-hander James Paxton and right-hander Taijuan Walker, formed part of Seattle’s ‘Big Three’ pitching prospects. After his first full year in the Mariners’ system, it looked like Hultzen was on the cusp of a fruitful career in Major League Baseball: he produced a cumulative 3.05 ERA, 5.4 BB/9, and 9.9 SO/9 across 124 innings for Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma in 2012 and had been named to the All-Star Futures Game as well.
Instead of making his anticipated MLB debut in 2013, however, the young left-hander suffered a hip injury during spring training. That initial setback was followed by a string of increasingly devastating health issues and procedures: a rotator cuff strain, labrum and rotator cuff surgery, another rotator cuff strain, another shoulder surgery. From 2014 through 2018, he logged just 10 minor league innings between injuries and still has yet to pitch a full season at any professional level since 2012.
After his career petered out with the Mariners in 2017, Hultzen latched onto another minor league gig with the Cubs in March 2018. It’s unclear how effective he’ll be once he breaks into the majors this fall, but just getting back to the mound represents a definite triumph for all involved. He’s been solid in 14 1/3 innings pitched at Triple-A Iowa this year, crafting a 1.26 ERA, 5.7 BB/9, and 14.4 SO/9 in 14 relief appearances so far.