The Cubs played free baseball for the third time in five games Saturday night and all of the extra innings and lack of quality starts are showing on the bullpen arms. The relievers look tired and the numbers over the last month prove the point.
The Cubs made it a priority early in the season to protect the young relievers in the pen that is the main reason the team has carried 13 pitchers for a majority of the year. Case in point the team has plans for the relievers and will stick to them no matter what happens was when John Baker was used in the 16th inning instead of Hector Rondon, the only reliever not called on during the marathon.
The Cubs are at the beginning of a stretch of 33 games in 34 days, the team has two off days in August (Aug. 4, Aug. 25) and will need innings from Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood in order to keep from burning out the bullpen arms before rosters expand on Sept. 1.
The Cubs have played 13 extra innings games (5-8) and are 11-18 in one-run games this year. Until the roster expands in September and Rick Renteria has all of the relievers, and starters, on the 40-man roster at his disposal the front office would like to call-up, the shuttle between Chicago and Iowa should continue to ensure the power arms in the pen don’t flame out after this year.
Priority is Pitching
The front office realizes the farm system is imbalanced and the Cubs plan to address the issue. The organization has an impressive group of position players but the system lacks depth and the high impact pitching prospects that project at the top of a Major League rotation. That is not saying one of the young arms could not turn out to be a top of the rotation arm, but the projections are not there at this point.
Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein said last week that the front office will make pitching the number one priority for the Cubs over the next 12-24 months. The Cubs have the prospect currency to trade for a good young arm or two as well as the financial flexibility to sign a big name free agent starter, like Jon Lester.
As Patrick Mooney pointed out, the Cubs will be linked to free-agent-to-be Jon Lester but Max Scherzer is “not viewed as a match now” with the Cubs.
According to multiple reports, Kyuji Fujikawa is scheduled to pitch Monday for Iowa then the team will decide the next course of action for him. The Cubs would like to see him pitch on back-to-back days before making the decision on whether to activate Fujikawa from the DL or not.
Fujikawa’s rehab assignment expires Tuesday and he is only throwing in the 87-89 mph range right now.
A contending team, like the Dodgers that just lost Paul Maholm for the season with a torn ACL, could make an August waiver trade with the Cubs for Carlos Villanueva. Villanueva realizes his days with the Cubs could be numbered according to multiple reports, but he would like to stay with the team he says has been stepped on “so much by everybody.”
Villanueva sees what the Cubs have coming in the system and he told the beat writers “it could be really special to win with a team like this.” He explained he’s been through two tough seasons with the Cubs and would like to be with the team when it’s good.
Chris Bosio told the Tribune the Cubs have a lot to play for over the final two months of the season. According to the report, the Cubs have 29 games left against teams in the NL Central, with 10 of those games against the Brewers.
Bosio explained, “This can really set a great example for our younger players who are coming up and some of the guys that we’re probably going to be picking up here in the next couple of months. I can’t think of a more important time for all of those to try to come together, and we’re in the third year of this plan.”
The Cubs have struggled mightily in August and September the last two years. The team won 17 games combined in August and September a year ago (8-20 in Aug., 9-18 in Sept.) and posted 18 victories in 2012 (8-21 in Aug., 9-19 in Sept., 1-2 in Oct.) … and after two games this year, 1-1 with victories in four of the last six games.
News and Notes
Rick Renteria plans to use Chris Valaika at first base and shortstop as a way to give both Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo a day off according to the Tribune.
Chris Valaika became the 105th different player to suit up for the Cubs under the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer administration when he started Saturday night’s game.
Another note from Christopher Kamka, Chris Valaika was the 118th different player to start a game at third base since Ron Santo … and the 13th since Aramis Ramirez.
The Cubs played another extra inning game Saturday night, the team’s third in five days, and for the second time in those three games there was a weird twist to the game. Earlier in the week, the Cubs set a franchise record for the longest game played, in terms of time, and Saturday night the last hour and a half was played in the rain. The game was not called, but had an obvious impact as the Dodger Stadium tarp remained in storage behind the wall in centerfield.
This Day In Cubstory
2006 – Matt Murton tied a Major League record with four doubles in the second game of a doubleheader against the Diamondbacks. Cubs topped Arizona 7-3.
2004 – Indians signed amateur free agent Hector Rondon
1982 – Starter Chuck Rainey is one of four pitchers who combined to shutout the Cardinals 4-0. Rainey and the Cubs allowed 12 hits, two short of the record for the most hits allowed in a shutout. Bill Campbell wrapped up the game with a three inning save.
1975 – Roosevelt Brown, born
1972 – Bill Hands pitched a one-hitter in the Cubs 3-0 victory over the Expos in the second game of a doubleheader in Montreal. Expos won game one 2-1 in 13 innings.
1968 – Rod Beck, born
1937 – Cubs increased their lead in the National League to seven games with a 4-1 win over the Phillies. Bill Lee hit a home run and picked up his 10th straight win over Philly that dated back to 1935.
1932 – Cubs released Rogers Hornsby
1929 – Cubs complained Brooklyn pitcher Dazzy Vance was wearing a ragged shirt sleeve to distract the vision of the hitters. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 12-2 at Wrigley behind Hal Carlson.