Park Ridge native Brian Schlitter settling in with Chicago Cubs bullpen

SHARE Park Ridge native Brian Schlitter settling in with Chicago Cubs bullpen

CHICAGO — After Brian Schlitter’s long ascent to the big leagues — from Maine South to the Chicago Cubs with several stops in between — was derailed by an elbow injury, the pitcher had to reboot his major league dream.

Schlitter, who pitched in eight games for the Cubs in 2010, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, missing that entire season.

“It’s hard,” Schlitter said. “You want to compete and you want to help any team that you can. To be sidelined isn’t the greatest feeling, but you work to get back.”

After a few years in the minor leagues, Schlitter is back with the Cubs and pitching about as well as he ever has.

The 6-foot-5 righty from Park Ridge had a 3.89 ERA through 47 games this year, all in relief. Schlitter throws sinkers and keeps the ball low in the strike zone. He has a groundout rate of 58 percent, second-best on the team.

“He’s been the go-to guy for us when we need a guy to come in,” Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode said.

Schlitter has been a stronger pitcher since his surgery. During his rehab, along with throwing and exercising, he refined his pitching motion. He said he has a simpler delivery now and makes sure that he’s coming toward the plate at his release. The difference between this year and 2010 — where he allowed 11 earned runs in eight total innings — is noticeable.

“I got a new arm, basically,” Schlitter said. “My mechanics are a lot better. Just learning to throw more strikes.”

Schlitter made the Opening Day roster and was sent down before being called up in late April. Though he was quiet earlier in year, according to Strode, Schlitter now keeps his teammates loose. For instance, Schlitter would “accidentally” toss water onto an unsuspecting Justin Grimm before entering games until the fellow Cubs reliever caught on.

On the mound, though, Schlitter is stoic.

“The best thing about him is his demeanor,” Maine South baseball coach Bill Milano said. “You wouldn’t know if he struck out the side or got shelled. He has the same affect, which is great for a pitcher to have.”

Milano coached Schlitter at Maine South in 2003 and 2004, when he was a starting pitcher for the Hawks. Schlitter and Milano have kept in touch: They text about baseball and Schlitter returns each year to visit coaches at the school.

“Brian always had the potential,” Milano said. “It was just a matter of him maturing. And he went through a lot. He went through some tough times. He really just stuck with it, which is a credit to his tenacity.”

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