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Steve Cishek, who signed with the Cubs early in free agency will be part of a retooled bullpen in Chicago.

Associated Press

CHICAGO — Steve Cishek was pleased that the Cubs thought so highly of him so quickly in December that he agreed to be a part of their newly retooled bullpen.

And given the deliberate pace that the Cubs and other teams have embarked on in their search for starting pitching, Cishek accepts the responsibility that he and his fellow relievers will take on — starting with Friday night’s Cubs Convention opening ceremony at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

“A lot of position players will argue that we’re the kickers of baseball, but kickers have a big responsibility in football,” Cishek said Thursday before he, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and about 150 Cubs employees participated in several service projects at Kilmer Elementary School. “A lot of times the game is on the line for them, so I’ll take that parallel.

“We’re expected to go out and put a zero on the board. And if we do, no one really notices. But if things don’t go well, everyone notices.”

Cishek, along with pitchers Tyler Chatwood and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, will be among the most significant newcomers introduced before a capacity crowd.

One of the biggest absentees, however, will be closer Wade Davis, who saved 32 games in 33 chances before signing a three-year, $52 million contract with the Rockies.

But before Davis signed two weeks ago, the Cubs already had signed Brandon Morrow and Cishek, who has 121 career saves. But Cishek, 31, doesn’t mind that Morrow (18 career saves) will get first crack at replacing Davis.

“Like I’ve been saying, I’ll do what it takes to help the team win ballgames, and (pitching coach) Jim Hickey saw me last year coming into a lot of different situations. I’m comfortable doing whatever.”

Manager Joe Maddon likes the versatility of his bullpen that includes holdovers Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm but hinted “I don’t think our guys are done yet” in their quest for relief help.

But for now, the Cubs can be encouraged that the sidearm-throwing Cishek, who saved 73 games with the Marlins in 2013-14, got stronger in 2017 after slowing recovering from left hip surgery last winter.

Cishek credited the Mariners’ training staff and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. for eventually getting him back to top form before he was dealt to the Rays, where he joined Hickey and posted a 1.09 ERA in 26 appearances.

“I was throwing 91-92 (mph) again,” Cishek recalled. “My breaking ball had depth to it for the first time in a while. Everything came together, and I rode it out until the end of the season.”

The Cubs’ bullpen posted the National League’s third-lowest ERA (3.80) despite issuing 264 walks in 559 innings. But Cishek posted a 3.71 walk-to-strikeout ratio with the Rays — where he was a teammate of Cubs starting pitching target Alex Cobb.

“(The market) is moving slower than we all thought, but it would be nice to see him in a Cubs uniform,” Cishek said. “He’s a tremendous teammate, a good friend and a tremendous competitor, someone you would want on your team.”

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