Bricks & Ivy: April Showers Bring May...Answers?

Bricks & Ivy: April Showers Bring May...Answers?

Monday, May 3, 2010
5:48 PM

By Luke Stuckmeyer
CSNChicago.com

April Shower: The Cubs have questions to answer after the first month of the season, but almost every team in baseball can say the same thing. The Cubs concerns are obvious right now....the bullpen and their inconsistent offense. The biggest hit to the Cubs going into this season was the loss of Angel Guzman. He's not Cy Young but the Cubs were counting on him as a righty with experience and past success to bridge the gap to Marmol. That left young relievers trying the setup role and they were forced into pressure situations.

May Answer: Can Carlos Zambrano be the temporary answer? So far -- so good. Give Carlos credit for being a team player here. Two years ago a more immature Zambrano would never have taken this role. He's not happy, but he's doing it. Zambrano has the best winning percentage of any starting pitcher in Cubs history!! Its the boldest move in baseball this year.

April Shower: An offensive roller coaster with more lows than highs for the Cubs big three. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are struggling to hit their weight with slow starts at the plate. Alfonso Soriano heard more boos than A.J. Pierzynsksi in a crosstown game. This much is simple...all three have to produce if the Cubs are going anywhere.

May Answer: Don't worry. They will hit. Soriano is on a tear to start the month and the booing -- has turned into bleacher bum bowing! Lee was the best player in Chicago last year and a slow start isn't the end of the world. D Lee will hit and so will Aramis Ramirez. They are two of the most productive hitters in the National League every single year. That will be the case again this year.

If that doesn't cheer you up, try this:

1. Geovany Soto had a great first month after struggling last season.
2. Carlos Marmol has been terrific as the closer since taking over last year.
3. Marlon Byrd has been everything the Cubs need him to be on and off the field.
4. Tyler Colvin's spring training was not a fluke.
5. The Cubs starting pitching survived without Ted Lilly. They have been as good as anybody in baseball.

Now let's see if this all adds up to a big month of May on the Northside!

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler won't be making a surprise return to the Cubs next season.

Fowler is closing in on a deal to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The Cubs signed outfielder Jon Jay last week to a one-year deal, pretty much sealing Fowler's future with the Cubs.

In two seasons in Chicago, Fowler batted .261/.367/.427 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and a World Series ring.

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

The Cubs are reportedly on the verge of adding another pitcher who’s notched the final out of a World Series as Theo Epstein’s front office builds out the bullpen for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs are nearing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Koji Uehara, according to Nikkan Sports in Japan, which would open up even more possibilities for the defending champs in front of All-Star closer Wade Davis.

The Cubs made their biggest splash during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland by trading young outfielder Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Davis, who finished off Game 5 in the 2015 World Series.

Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox, the beginning of three straight seasons where he put up 20-plus saves. The Cubs have not confirmed an agreement is in place.

The Cubs needed another lefty presence with Mike Montgomery – the pitcher on the mound when the 108-year drought ended in November – moving to the rotation and Travis Wood likely leaving as a free agent.

Uehara throws right-handed, but he shuts down left-handed hitters (.183 batting average, .555 OPS across 800 at-bats) and has appeared in seven postseason series after a distinguished career in Japan.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 

Uehara will turn 42 the day after Opening Day. But an array of relievers should help preserve Uehara, strengthen Carl Edwards Jr. (who’s generously listed at 170 pounds) and maybe prevent the late-season injuries that marginalized Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop during the playoffs.

“We’re going to try to build up a ton of depth,” Epstein said. “We’re going to try to build up a really talented, deep bullpen with a lot of different options that you can use in close games.

“Instead of three late-game options, it would be ideal if you had five or six. And you could always like who you’re turning to in the ‘pen and not feel the need to use a Rondon four out of five times.

“(We could) use them every other day and occasional back-to-backs. And that would help keep them fresh down the stretch – and help keep them strong in October.”