The Cubs made a couple of moves Sunday, bringing a pair of veteran pitchers into the organization.
The team claimed Kameron Loe off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. The 31-year-old right-hander has played parts of nine seasons in the Major Leagues as both a starter and reliever but has been a full-time reliever since 2008.
After being a part of the Brewers bullpen from 2010 to 2012, he most recently appeared in four games with the Mariners earlier this season. Loe went 1-1 with a 10.80 ERA, allowing eight runs on 11 hits -- including six home runs -- in 6 2/3 innings pitched. The Mariners designated him for assignment on Thursday.
“I know Kameron Loe from Milwaukee,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Great guy, can get groundballs, sinker. If he gets enough rest, his sinker is always really, really playable in the big leagues.”
To make room on the 40-man roster for Loe, the Cubs placed Steve Clevenger on the 60-day DL with a left oblique strain. After Sunday’s game, Rafael Dolis was optioned back to Triple-A Iowa. The move presumably makes way for Loe on the big-league roster, though the Cubs won’t make an official move until Tuesday. That’s also when Darwin Barney will return to the club after a rehab assignment with Iowa.
The Cubs also announced Sunday the signing of relief pitcher Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal. The 34-year-old right-hander will report to the rookie-league Mesa Cubs.
Gregg was part of the Cubs bullpen in 2009, when he appeared in 72 games, saving 23 of them. His tenure was a rocky one, as he started as the club’s closer and blew seven saves that season. He was removed from the closer’s role in mid-August.
He most recently spent Spring Training with the Dodgers, after pitching parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Orioles. He appeared in 40 games for Baltimore last season, posting a 3-2 record and a 4.95 ERA. He struck out 37 hitters and walked 24 in 43 2/3 innings of work.
Clevenger to 60-day DL
The final swing of Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Giants ended with Clevenger in a heap at home plate, and it could be his final swing for months.
An MRI confirmed what the Cubs presumed on Saturday, that Clevenger injured his left oblique. It’s a strain to the muscle, and it will keep him on the mend for a minimum of six weeks. An MRI confirmed what the Cubs presumed on Saturday, that Clevenger injured his left oblique. It’s a strain to the muscle, and it will keep him on the mend for a minimum of six weeks. He was placed on the 60-day disabled list Sunday.
Clevenger injured the muscle swinging at strike three with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday. He foul tipped the pitch into the catcher’s glove for the game’s final out before immediately falling to the ground.
“As soon as I swung, I just felt like somebody stuck a knife in my side,” Clevenger said. “The reason I wasn’t moving was that I couldn’t really breathe too good, so I was just staying down trying to catch my breath as quick as possible. It took a while to catch my breath.”
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Sveum and Clevenger both mentioned the 27-year-old’s work ethic this offseason, pointing to how hard he worked to make the team as the team’s third catcher.
Another Cubs catcher, Dioner Navarro, felt bad for his teammate’s predicament.
“Our relationship in Spring Training was great,” Navarro said. ”We were there from 7:15 to 9 everyday. We were doing our work and catching our sides or doing our hitting and then we just sat there and talked about baseball for a long time. It was a good relationship. ... It’s sad and disappointing to see Clev go down the way he did, but he’ll be all right. He’s a strong guy and a tough kid, and hopefully he’ll be back soon.”
This isn’t Clevenger’s first bout with an oblique injury. He injured his right oblique on a swing in batting practice last season. He’s generating hope for a speedy recovery this time around from his ahead-of-schedule recovery last year.
Many wondered if the cold weather coupled with Clevenger’s insertion as a late pinch-hitter could have something to do with the injury. After much thought, however, he concluded it was just one of those things that happens without a precursor.
“It’s very frustrating. I stayed up quite a bit last night just lingering on, ‘What could I have done?’ But it’s just one of those freak accidents," Clevenger said. "I did everything I could. I stretched out for four innings, I hit for two innings in here off the tee. It’s just one of those things that just happened.”
Sveum’s three-catcher plans change
Sveum was living in luxury -- well, at least he had the luxury of three catchers.
But that all changed when Clevenger strained his left oblique on the final swing of Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Giants. Sveum, who had been reaping the benefits of being able to pinch hit with one of his many catchers, now has to manage in a more conventional style.
“You could see how the bench was able to work correctly with having three catchers and two of them being left-handed -- obviously, Navarro’s a switch-hitter -- it kind of makes it a little bit easier on the manager to mix and match at the end of games,” Sveum said.
The three-catcher system Sveum was employing was at its best over the past two games against the Giants, when twice the manager elected to pinch hit with Navarro, and twice Navarro hit clutch home runs.
Now, Sveum will have to think long and hard about rolling the dice on pinch hitting with Navarro, as it would remove a safety net in the event of an injury to starting catcher Welington Castillo.
“I wouldn’t say you’re without it [the option to pinch-hit with Navarro]. You probably have to be a little choosier,” Sveum said. “Sometimes you just have to -- if it’s going to win you a game in the seventh inning -- you’re just going to have to say, ‘Castillo, don’t get hurt.’”
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Still, even with some late-game options limited, Sveum is happy with how his backstops have been performing at the plate. Castillo is batting .364 on the young season, which ranked seventh in the National League entering play Sunday. His average exclusively against righties was even higher, sitting at .417 before the series finale with the Giants. And Navarro has starred over the weekend with his two home runs off San Francisco pitching.
It was Navarro who earned the start behind the plate against Tim Lincecum on Sunday, and he addressed the playing time the catchers are splitting before the game.
“I want to play, but at the same time I know we’ve got a young guy here who’s expectations are high,” Navarro said. “Like I’ve said since Spring Training, I’m here to help him out, and he’s here to help me out. You learn something new everyday. Whatever is best for the team. I’m ready, and every time they call my number I’m going to do my best and try to help the team win.”