Cubs manager David Ross calls right-hander Keegan Thompson his weapon out of the bullpen.
Not a secret weapon. Certainly not anymore — not after 13 2/3 dominant innings long relief to open the season.
But there might yet be a secret to all that success, and if so it’s as hot as his pitching.
As in hot yoga.
Not that the typical baseball writer knows exactly what that is, or how it makes athletic endeavors such as pitching any better.
“It’s just regular yoga, and it’s like 95 degrees in there,” Thompson said. “It just gets you sweating more, gets the blood flow maybe a a little better.”
Which makes this much clear: The last Cub as hot as this guy has been on the mound was the same Cub, a few months ago.
“I’d done it like once or twice before, but this year was the first time that I was actually able to find a place and go consistently,” said Thompson, 27, who discovered the intense regimen on his own.
“It’s just something I wanted to try out, and I liked it,” he said.
If his performance arc since last season as a rookie is any indication, hot yoga might be the biggest thing in Cubs pitching workouts since Jake Arrieta and pilates.
Thompson has pitched four times this season, recording eight, 10, 11 and 12 outs in those outings, with 14 strikeouts and only three hits and six hits allowed.
“I can’t overstate how well he’s pitched,” Ross said, “and how good he’s looked and how valuable that arm has been for us.”
In fact, Thompson has been so dominant, he has functioned dually as a mid-game fireman and piggyback starter — three times entering the game for the starter with men on base and quickly escaping the jam each time before adding multiple innings of relief.
Talk about heat.
He even leads the team in ejections, with one, for intentionally hitting Milwaukee’s Andrew McCutchen April 9 with a pitch, resulting in his shortest outing of the season (2 2/3 innings).
Whether any of this is the result of the stepped-up, higher-temperature yoga, Thompson can’t say and hasn’t spent much time wondering. He also was impressive as a rookie in varied roles with a power repertoire that starts with 94-mph velocity — even dominant in all but a few appearances.
“The more flexible you can be as a pitcher I think the better off you’re going to be,” he said. “It’s trying to strengthen the small muscles in the shoulder and the forearm and getting the hamstring flexibility. You just want to be limber; it just makes things easier. And hopefully it can keep you healthier longer.”