How new Chicago Cubs pitcher Brandon Hughes got his MLB shot

Spring training was nearing its completion back in 2019 when Brandon Hughes was summoned to the field coordinator office at the Chicago Cubs’ complex in Mesa, Arizona. Hughes, then a minor-league outfielder, was greeted by Jaron Madison, the organization’s director of player development at the time.

Madison had bad news.

The Cubs didn’t see many opportunities for at-bats that season for Hughes and didn’t foresee him having a future with the club. At least not in the outfield. But they weren’t ready to give up on him entirely. So, Madison gave him two choices …

Hughes could either continue as an outfielder and be granted his release from the team.

Or he could immediately transition into being a pitcher.

“It was a hard decision,” Hughes says now, “because I had just made some big switches.”

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Hughes hadn’t pitched since a brief stint as a two-way player in college. But after mulling over the options, he made one of the biggest and best decisions of his life. He’d become a pitcher again. It has paid off for Hughes, who has become one of the most surprisingly successful relievers in the entire organization. And he’s now a big leaguer, after being promoted by the Chicago Cubs Tuesday.

“We’re all pulling for him,” said Madison, who’s now a special assistant to the Cubs president/general manager, Jed Hoyer.

Iowa Cubs pitcher Brandon Hughes hugs outfielder Zach Davis following the end of an inning.  Davis made a diving catch to get Hughes out of a jam.

How Brandon Hughes went from outfielder to pitcher

Hughes was excited for the 2019 season.

A 16th-round draft pick by the Cubs back in 2017, he had made some monumental changes to his swing and was hoping for a breakout season. He had already shown some promise, smacking 14 doubles and four homers in 110 games in Single-A in 2018. Then, over the offseason, he worked on not lunging toward the plate and quieting his movements in the batter’s box. His exit velocity numbers had gone up. So had the average distance of the balls he was hitting.

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