Veteran lefty Drew Smyly returns to the Chicago Cubs with his sights set on earning a spot in the rotation

Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS

Drew Smyly never threw a pitch for the Chicago Cubs, but that didn’t stop the left-hander from wanting to reunite with his former organization.

Smyly spent 2018 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery after signing a two-year deal with the Cubs. However, they traded him to the Texas Rangers in the offseason.

Smyly, 32, will get a chance to help the Cubs this time. He officially signed a one-year deal Saturday with a mutual option for 2023.

Conversations between the sides began before the lockout, but a deal couldn’t get done. Smyly wanted to return because of the resources, tools and people he believes will put him in the best position to succeed.

“I’ve been on a lot of teams lately, and the Cubs definitely are on the forefront of technology and getting the most out of players,” he said. “So it’s always been a premium spot to come back, not to mention the city and the atmosphere at Wrigley.

“It was always sad for me that I didn’t get a chance to (pitch) when I was here first, so it’s an easy place, just very desirable to come back and try to play.”

Smyly is reunited with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, then the Cubs assistant pitching coach, and bullpen coach Chris Young, who was his pitching coach with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019. A starter for most of his career, Smyly is open to being versatile and is not against pitching out of the bullpen if that’s where the Cubs need him.

He has his sights set, though, on earning a rotation spot. He should be in the mix with Justin Steele, Alec Mills and Keegan Thompson.

“They know I want to start, and I think I’ll get that opportunity to start,” Smyly said. “But I know I have a lot of value in other areas too. ... A lot of pitchers can’t really do that, to be honest. I mean, there’s a lot of people that need a routine, and I’ve always been very open to just, hey, I want to play and pitch and try to compete.”

Brad Wieck faces another challenge

Left-handed reliever Brad Wieck felt something 13 pitches into his bullpen session March 11 and immediately stopped throwing.

Wieck has had Tommy John surgery before, so he knew not to push it when something was off. An MRI revealed a left elbow sprain, prompting him to be shut down and placed on the 60-day injured list to open a valuable spot on the 40-man roster. He will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection and rest to hopefully avoid another Tommy John surgery.

Wieck, 30, is optimistic the injection will help resolve the issue based on the doctor’s feedback on the location of the pain and the fact the discomfort stems from the muscle.

“I’m no stranger to coming back from an injury or health issues,” Wieck said. “It’s just one more chapter that I have to write in my book.”

This is the latest hurdle for Wieck, who twice in the last two years had a heart ablation procedure related to an irregular heartbeat. He figured to play a role in the bullpen after pitching 17 scoreless innings before going on the IL in July because of his heart issues.

“It’s just disappointing,” Wieck said. “I’m pleased with the information we got up until this point, so let it calm down and then build it back up.”

Cubs make more moves

Infielder Jonathan Villar’s one-year deal with a mutual option for 2023 also became official Saturday. And left-hander Daniel Norris was added to the big-league roster with a one-year contract.

To open 40-man spots, infielder David Bote was placed on the 60-day IL (shoulder surgery), while right-hander Tommy Nance landed on the COVID-19 IL. Alexander Vizcaino, who was optioned to Double A, went on the restricted list for undisclosed reasons, which created another 40-man spot.

The Cubs also made roster cuts by optioning Nelson Velázquez to Triple A, Christopher Morel to Double A and Alexander Canario to High A. Right-hander Robert Gsellman is now officially in camp as a non-roster invitee.