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After long journey, Tommy Nance the latest Cubs rookie pitcher to make his debut

Nance pitched for the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League in 2015 before signing with the Cubs in ’16.

Cubs relief pitcher Tommy Nance, left, and catcher Willson Contreras celebrate the win against the Nationals on Monday night.
Cubs relief pitcher Tommy Nance, left, and catcher Willson Contreras celebrate the win against the Nationals on Monday night.
David Banks/AP

It has been a while since the Cubs have had this many young pitchers contribute at the major-league level, but the moment doesn’t seem too big for the team’s rookie relievers.

Left-hander Justin Steele and right-hander Keegan Thompson both have made a big impact in the bullpen during their first stints with the Cubs and have begun to get more opportunities in high-leverage situations.

“It just makes me smile and laugh and takes me back to the great memories that I have of when I first made that same journey and all the things that were going through my head,” manager David Ross said. “You just love to see your guys have success and I’m proud of those guys for embracing those moments to get out there and succeeding.”

The latest pitcher to make his presence felt is right-hander Tommy Nance, who has had a long journey, including a few injuries, while trying to get his shot in the majors.

“I don’t have kids right now, but when I have kids one day, they ask me, ‘Why did you stop [playing]?’ I didn’t want to not have an answer, or not have a good answer. So for me, that also pushed me forward,” Nance said. “It was everything I imagined and more. It was always my dream to suit up and step on a major-league diamond.”

Nance, 30, is older than your average rookie, but after going undrafted and even playing independent ball for the Windy City Thunderbolts in Crestwood, he finally got his moment.

Nance made his MLB debut Monday and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in the 7-3 win against the Nationals. He threw a slider past Josh Harrison for his first strikeout.

“That’s one of those [moments] where you smile when you come off and get to shake the hand of a guy making his debut to close out a four-run lead,” Ross said. “Stuff was nasty. 96, throwing strikes. The breaking ball, it’s real.”

“When I came up the tunnel and up the stairs and stepped onto the field, it was a whole different atmosphere,” Nance said. “I think even more so when I got the call to go into the game and stepped out of the bullpen going through those doors. It’s just lights, like lights on me, I can hear the fans behind me, calling my name and I’m jogging out to the mound. It’s just an unbelievable experience and atmosphere.”

Cubs send Maybin to Mets

The Cubs traded outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Mets for cash considerations. Maybin had been playing at Class AAA Iowa and was not on the team’s 40-man roster. The Cubs acquired Maybin at last year’s trade deadline and re-signed him this offseason. He had a .250/.304/.365 slash line in 18 games with the Cubs.