The Cubs announced a decision to add an arm to the bullpen Saturday without saying a word. LHP Travis Wood started warming in the bullpen during the eighth inning and he was obviously doing more than just throwing his side session in between starts.
Joe Maddon gave the ball to Wood for the ninth inning. And he retired the Pirates in order on 10 pitches, six for strikes, to end the game and earn the first save of his professional career. Wood ran his fastball up to 92 mph and mixed in a couple of high-60s, low-70s curveballs.
Travis Wood made his first relief appearance since he was acquired from the Reds. Last time Wood pitched out of a bullpen was Sept. 17, 2011. Wood made four relief appearances for the Reds four years ago.
Maddon said after Saturday’s game that Wood will not make his next start that he would be pitching out of the bullpen. By moving Wood to the pen, the Cubs appeared to clear a spot in the rotation for LHP Tsuyoshi Wada.
Maddon indicated the team would announce its plans for the rotation Sunday.
The Cubs tipped their hand last week that a move could be made when Wada was pushed back two days from his scheduled start with Iowa to Thursday, the same day Wood was scheduled to start against the Mets in the finale of the four-game series.
Tsuyoshi Wada was slowed by injuries in Spring Training and began the season on the DL with a mild left groin strain. Wada started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on April 17. Wood’s struggles in his last three starts (0-3, 10.13 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP) made the Cubs’ decision rather easy as what they should do with Wada when his rehab assignment expired.
Tsuyoshi Wada is 1-3 in six starts for Iowa with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. Wada allowed 32 hits with 10 walks and 29 strikeouts. And while Wood was having problems, Wada was putting together his best stretch of the season. Over his last three starts, Wada allowed four runs, two earned, on 10 hits with three walks and 17 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings (0.92 ERA, 0.66 WHIP).
With Travis Wood in the bullpen, the Cubs are expected to announce more changes to the active roster prior to Sunday’s game.
The Cubs have 14 pitchers on the 25-man roster. Nine relievers is obviously too many and Maddon was able to use the arms he had available to him to close out Saturday’s game. Brian Schlitter should be sent down prior to Sunday’s game and it’s likely the Cubs will just stick with an eight-man pen until Wada has to be activated. If Wada is inserted in the rotation, as expected, that spot in the rotation comes back around Wednesday in the second of three in San Diego.
Unless there are injuries that have not been disclosed, the backend of the pen should be RHP Hector Rondon and RHP Pedro Strop. RHP Justin Grimm and LHP James Russell should take two spots, and it is unlikely LHP Zac Rosscup will be sent down. Maddon showed how much he trusts Rosscup when he had the lefty face Andrew McCutchen with the bases loaded in the sixth inning of Friday’s game.
With Travis Wood in the pen, the last spot, of what should be a seven-man bullpen by Wednesday, will be filled by either RHP Jason Motte, RHP Edwin Jackson or LHP Phil Coke. And if it is down to those three veterans, there could be some difficult conversations on the horizon for the front office and coaching staff.
It is really hard to see the Cubs carrying four lefties in the bullpen. With Wood being able to slide into the long-man role that Jackson could not fill, it is difficult to see how a team that is trying to win games can continue to carry a pitcher that cannot be depended on.
Sunday’s roster moves should be as simple as replacing Brian Schlitter with a position player, either Junior Lake or Tommy La Stella, but it might take until Wednesday for all of the moves with the pitching staff to shake out.