Ginger Wieck put her ear to her worried hubby’s chest last July.
“It doesn’t seem normal,” Brad Wieck said.
Considering that 6-foot-8, 257-pound Wieck underwent heart ablation to treat atrial flutter 16 months earlier, now was not the time to take chances.
A phone call to Cubs training staff led to an immediate visit to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
At that time, Wieck’s heartbeat returned to normal sinus rhythm and he pointed out to doctors that he hadn’t consumed large amounts of caffeine during the Cubs game he hadn’t pitched. earlier in the night.
But Wieck was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to strokes and heart failure, according to several medical websites.
“It was a scary ordeal, but I’m glad we got it sorted,” Wieck said.
Two months after undergoing surgery, Wieck, 30, was cleared for action in November and kicked off four bullpen sessions in Arizona to prepare for a left-handed relief role – provided training for spring starts on time.
“My timing is still in play after not kicking the ball for a while, but it feels good to be back on the mound,” Wieck said Friday in a phone interview. “My body and my arm feel great. It’s just a matter of timing right now.
“It takes time to get your body in sync. And I’m a big dude, so it’s good to get on the mound and figure out that timing.”
Glimpses of Wieck’s potential were cut short by a series of health issues. Wieck made his major league debut in September 2018 with San Diego and struck out 10 in seven innings. But the following January, Wieck told the Padres he wasn’t feeling well and was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
He recovered in time for the start of the 2019 season, and the Cubs thought enough to acquire him for reliever Carl Edwards Jr. by the July 31 trade deadline despite having a 6.57 ERA in 30 appearances.
Wieck was sent to the Cubs’ pitch lab at their spring training headquarters in Mesa, where he learned how to throw a pitch curve under the supervision of pitch rehab coordinator Josh Zeid.
In his second appearance, Wieck broke a curve that caused left-handed Seattle hitter Kyle Seager to dodge, only to have the pitch go over the plate for a third strike called and the first of the ninth inning of a 5-1 victory.
“It’s really interesting,” then-manager Joe Maddon said at the time.
But Wieck’s heart problems surfaced the following spring when Cubs team physician Stephen Adams detected an abnormal heart rhythm via an electrocardiogram during a physical exam. Wieck underwent cardiac ablation and was ready well before the start of the 60-game 2020 season in late July.
Wieck, however, suffered a right hamstring strain in Game 2 and did not return. He spent the first half of 2021 shuttling between Triple-A Iowa and the Cubs, where he didn’t allow a deserved run in 15 appearances before his latest heart issue.
Wieck said he was told after his heart was removed that he had a 30 to 40 percent chance of suffering from atrial fibrillation, a condition his aunt had known before.
“My heart was going crazy,” Wieck described that night last July. “Sometimes he would get beaten quickly, then he would go a second to two seconds, then get back on the run.
Wieck initially wore a heart monitor synchronized with a cellphone that provided information to his doctor. But MLB doesn’t allow cell phones on the field, and he said it’s too difficult to turn equipment on and off.
Wieck, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by the Oklahoma City University Mets, said he has since researched details about atrial fibrillation and was told by doctors he could require multiple surgeries to fully heal.
“But from now on, I feel good,” Wieck said.
To prove his point, Wieck posted a video clip of one of his bullpen sessions on his Twitter account.
“I had to deal with a lot of things in my career, but it was one more thing that made me who I am,” Wieck said. “I’m proud of what made me, and all I can do is keep working.”
Due to the MLB lockout, Cubs officials cannot comment on players on the 40-man roster. But it’s obvious that Wieck will have a reasonable chance of making the matchday one roster – provided he remains healthy.
“I haven’t felt anything weird since the operation,” said Wieck, who praised Dr. Bradley Knight for performing the procedure and educating him.
“(The Cubs) are confident in who I am, what I’m capable of. I just have to keep breaking my (tail) and feeling better.”