The name Casey Coleman probably rings a few bells with Cubs fans, though you’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember him very well. Out of the organization since 2014, the righty was recently re-signed to a minor league deal after spending 2017 and the early part of this season in independent ball. And if he keeps pitching like he did Thursday night, he might be able to provide the Cubs with a little depth.
A 15th round pick by the Cubs in 2008, Coleman made his MLB debut two years later and went 4-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 12 games (eight starts). He failed to make the team out of spring training in 2011 but eventually came back up to pitch in 19 games (17 starts), going 3-9 with a 6.40 ERA. His final appearance in a Cubs uniform came in 2012, when he posted a 7.40 ERA over 17 outings (one start).
He then bounced around from the Cubs to the Royals to the Mariners to the Rays to the Astros, pitching almost exclusively at the AAA level, with 12 innings for KC in 2014 standing as his last MLB action. Coleman also spent time in the Mexican Winter League and was most recently with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League, where he was a teammate of former Cubs James Russell, Dallas Beeler, and Anthony Giansanti (who spent six years in the organization).
In 37.1 innings over seven appearances (six starts) for the Skeeters season, Coleman was 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 0.911 WHIP. That, perhaps with a nod to his history, enticed the Cubs to purchase his contract and assign him to AAA Iowa on Wednesday. It was such a hasty and under-the-radar move that even Cubs beat writers were caught by surprise when news of Coleman’s Thursday start began to spread.
In his first affiliated ball start this season, @IowaCubs RHP Casey Coleman has nine strikeouts thru six innings. He just struck out the side in the 6th inning after allowing the first two batters to reach base.
— Alex Cohen (@voiceofcohen) July 6, 2018
Is this the Casey Coleman I think it is? The RHP who played for #Cubs?
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 6, 2018
Pitching with a Cubs logo on his chest for the first time in four years, Coleman retired the first four batters he faced and ended up allowing only one run on three hits to earn the win. Even better, he struck out nine batters and walked only two across six innings.
There’s not a wealth of information out there about what Coleman threw in his I-Cubs start or what he’s been throwing over the last few years, so it’s hard to say how compared to his previous time with the Cubs. We do know that after averaging around 90 on the fastball in Chicago, he sat 95 during his time with the Royals. He had also changed his pitch mix to heavily favor the four-seam and slider, though that was more a function of being used solely as a reliever in short outings.
It’s going to take more than one start to prove his worth, but Coleman just turned 31 on July 3 and should still have some gas in the tank. At the very least, he offers very low-risk organizational depth. At best, and this is a real stretch, he could provide the Cubs a little rotation help down the stretch should Yu Darvish not make that optimistic late-July return. Then you’ve got the in-between scenario that would see Coleman bouncing back up to the bigs for an emergency start.
With the 40-man roster currently standing at only 38, the Cubs wouldn’t have to make a corresponding move in order to add Coleman should that become a necessity. If nothing else, this is a feel-good story to follow over the coming weeks and months.