Organizational Recap – Wind Blows Out, Cubs Bullpen Blows Up
Stop if you’ve heard this one before. The Cubs bullpen has question marks, and Saturday’s 8-7 loss to the Pirates shows why.
I get it. It was a gusty day on the North side against a very good hitting Bucs team, and the wind could have netted Tuffy Rhodes a three-home-run day. Carl Edwards Jr. was not available and on the bereavement list, so that’s a factor (prayers to him, by the way). That said, the structure of the bullpen is taking a really weird shape at this point in the season, and there has been no consistent lead-in to closer Wade Davis, who, after a rocky in Spring Training, looks like his old self thus far (three more Ks in 1 IP Saturday).
Manager Joe Maddon is trying to build confidence back up in both Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop after clearly steering away from them in the playoffs last year. Strop has been a roller coaster ride thus far, and his three-run bomb to Andrew McCutcheon further illustrates his struggles. Rondon, cleared from tweaking his knee Wednesday, has been much better than last year, and we’ll leave it at that since its early in the season.
My two big questions from this game are:
- Is 42-year-old Koji Uehara the Cubs’ setup guy? Or is it Rondon? Both have appeared in the eighth inning in crunch time three times this year (and Uehara has yet to be scored on) but are either of these two go-to setup men at this stage in their careers? Edwards has only been the eighth-inning guy once, which begs the question …
- If Maddon has enough confidence in him to try to close out the World Series, why is Edwards not the Cubs’ lockdown eighth inning guy? He, too, has yet to be scored on this year and allegedly could be the Cubs closer of the future if they do not want to pay a likely large Davis deal this offseason.
What do you think the Cubs should do to shore up some of these bullpen questions early in the season? Or is it too early to declare them problems?
Questionable Bullpen Move?
Leaving Brian Duensing in to start the seventh and him surrendering jacks to Starling Marte and Josh Harrison was really the swing of momentum to the Pirates. Duensing is all of two days off the DL with a stiff lower back. He was pitching on back-to-back days, and he bailed Arrieta out of a mini sixth-inning jam with a one-pitch ground ball out to end the frame. That should’ve been it.
Why not just send Strop out to start the seventh fresh? Dirty innings, man. They get you.
Arrieta’s Velocity, Cubs Offense Show Some Pop
Worthless Jake Arrieta velocity alert! He sat at 92 most of the game with his fastball and had a nasty slider working, despite two homers (one that would have been a routine fly ball any other day off the bat of Francisco Cervelli). Arrieta should be 3-0, and his arm is lively this year … almost too lively. He was effectively wild against the Bucs and that offseason contract is still on track to be $200 million.
It was great to see Kris Bryant’s first two home runs of the year, including one that traveled 451 feet and ricocheted off the video board in left field, while Addison Russell continued his strong start with a 2-for-5 day, a triple, double and three RBI. I thought he was winning it with a game-winner in the bottom of the ninth, but he K’d.
The Cubs (6-5) try to avoid being swept at the hands of the Pirates (5-6) by sending southpaw Jon Lester to the mound against 25-year-old Jameson Taillon, who, along with Tyler Glasnow and Gerrit Cole, makes up the young nucleus the Pirates have in starting pitching. Today’s game will be on WGN-TV and Radio 670 The Score at 1:20 CDT.
Class AAA – Round Rock Express 7, Iowa Cubs 6
SP – Williams Perez L (0-1), 5 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
2B – Chesny Young 3-4, 2 R
CF – John Andreoli 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R
DH – Ian Happ 2-4, R
3B – Jeimer Candelario 1-4, 2B, RBI
1B – Victor Caratini 1-5, 2 RBI
Recap: Panic has set in … Happ hasn’t homered since Thursday and Candelario hasn’t recorded a 5-RBI game since Wednesday! The bats still came out for the Cubs, but a 4-run fourth charged to Perez wasted a 4-2 Iowa lead. It was nice to see Chesny Young notch a 3-hit game and David Rollins run his scoreless-relief-innings streak to five with two scoreless frames. If he keeps it up, Rollins may find a spot in the big league pen.
Class AA – Tennessee Smokies 3, Mississippi Braves 2 (Game 1: Final/9)
SP – Preston Morrison ND, 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
CF – Charcer Burks 2-4
1B – Jeffrey Baez 1-3, HR, RBI, R
Recap: The Smokies walked off in Game 1 with a pinch-hit RBI single by Erick Castillo in the bottom of the ninth.
Class AA – Mississippi Braves 3, Tennessee Smokies 1 (Game 2: Final/7)
SP – Duane Underwood Jr. L (0-1), 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)
3B – Jason Vosler 1-3, HR, 1 RBI, 1 R
CF – Charcer Burks 1-3
LF – Roberto Caro 1-2
Recap: Underwood Jr. settled down after trailing 3-0 after 2 innings of play. Fantasy Baseball Prospect Writer Chris Blessing reported Underwood sitting 90 to 92 mph with his two-seam fastball in the first inning. He never had a chance with an offense that totaled just three hits, one a homer from Jason Vosler.
Class A Advanced – Lynchburg Hillcats 5, Myrtle Beach Pelicans 3
SP – Casey Bloomquist L (0-2), 4 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
SS – Bryant Flete 3-4, 2B, 2 R
3B – Jesse Hodges 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI
Class A – West Michigan Whitecaps 6, South Bend Cubs 5
SP – Jose Paulino ND, 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
LF – Kevonte Mitchell 2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R
2B – Zack Short 2-4, 3B, RBI, R
1B – Vimael Machin 2-4, 2B, RBI
C – Albert Mineo 2-4, 3B