Cubs trying to piece bullpen back together

385607.jpg

Cubs trying to piece bullpen back together

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
Posted 6:15 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Late last September a Cubs pitcher surveyed the room and thought about what Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol meant to the bullpen. By the end, they were forced to become leaders.

Whether they want to or not, he said, thats their job.

Marshall had just turned 28, and Marmol was a few weeks away from his 28th birthday, but they seemed older than that. The Cubs used 11 rookie pitchers last season, including seven who made their big-league debut.

One club official promised that youll never see anything quite like that again at Wrigley Field. Yet as pitchers and catchers prepare for their first formal workout on Monday in Arizona, a bullpen that caused Lou Piniella so much anxiety might be the least of Mike Quades concerns.

Marshall (2.65 ERA in 80 games) had never really complained about the way the Cubs moved him in and out of the rotation and might have become the teams most valuable player. Marmol (38 saves) could be seen chatting up the younger Dominican players and never seemed to let last nights game close in on him.

Relievers are difficult to project from one season to the next, but the Cubs rewarded Marshall with a two-year 4.7 million deal last month. Theyve been optimistic that theyll be able to buy out a year of Marmols free agency and finalize a multi-year extension.

If Kerry Wood can stay healthy, the Cubs feel like they can dominate late-game situations. How they get to that point depends on who steps up in camp. Nearly everyone has something to prove.

There are questions about the back end of the rotation with Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva and Casey Coleman. Non-roster players like Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer and Angel Guzman are looking for another chance. Jeff Samardzija is out of minor-league options, while John Grabow must show his left knee is stable.

We got a lot of good arms, Marshall said. (Greg) Maddux told me my rookie year: Good pitching beats good hitting and good pitching wins championships. I think thats what we have.

No ones in a rush to plan parade routes, but the bullpen is the quickest way to improve. The Cubs lost 32 one-run games last season, more than any other team in the majors. They were most vulnerable in the seventh and eighth innings, where they allowed 231 runs combined.

There is a strong probability that the rotation will be entirely right-handed, but the Cubs are comfortable with that. They have left-handed bullpen options in Marshall, Grabow and Scott Maine, who posted a 2.08 ERA during his 13-game audition as a rookie.

Thats why they called me up, to see if I could handle it, Maine said on the final weekend of last season. Ive done pretty well, and sort of surprised myself, but I need to keep it going and all that other stuff is really out of my hands. I could put up a zero ERA this whole time and not make the team next year.

There are limits to what we can take away from how it all ended, whether its Quades 24-13 record as manager or the 28-inning scoreless streak the bullpen put together late last year. But at least that evaluation period gave everyone a better idea of what to expect.
With Kerry Wood in the fold to bridge the gap from starters to Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol, the Cubs believe their bullpen can be highly successful at closing the door late in close games. (AP)
Wood is exactly what the Cubs needed last season, a veteran presence to take the pressure off everyone else. He got a press conference when he signed, a role in the organization once he retires and the loudest cheers at the Cubs Convention.

Here comes baseballs most celebrated middle reliever jogging out of the bullpen.

Im going (to) do my thing, Wood said. Im going (to) try to get outs and hope the guys down there will see the way I go about my business. Im going to learn a lot from them. Hopefully they can learn something from me.

Were all in this together. And were all trying to get the W at the end of the day.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs unveil championship Trophy Tour

Cubs unveil championship Trophy Tour

The Cubs announced their World Series championship victory lap Thursday afternoon.

The Cubs Trophy Tour presented by State Farm will take the World Series hardware around throughout the Midwest, beyond just the Chicagoland area.

“We’re excited to share our cherished trophy with fans this offseason as we celebrate such a historic World Series Championship,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “This year’s World Championship team is unparalleled, and so are our fans. We can’t wait for them to experience the joy of seeing this piece of history in person.”

The tour begins Friday, Dec. 9 at the official Cubs Team Store on Michigan Ave. from Noon to 3 p.m.

From there, the trophy gets the weekend off before surfacing again Thursday, Dec. 15 at Chicago City Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 

The Trophy Tour hits the road after that, with stops in central Illinois; the Quad Cities; South Bend and Indianapolis; Des Moines, Iowa and other Midwest locations.

Of course, the trophy will also be with the Cubs in spring training in Mesa, Ariz. and at Wrigley Field for the Cubs' home opener on April 10.

Check out Cubs.com/trophytour for more info, including a schedule, social media post and highlights from each stop along the way. 

Also be sure to follow @Cubs on Twitter and Instagram for more updates while CSN will document the Trophy Tour.

Joe Maddon breaks down Wade Davis vs. Aroldis Chapman as Cubs ramp up for another World Series run

Joe Maddon breaks down Wade Davis vs. Aroldis Chapman as Cubs ramp up for another World Series run

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Cubs downplayed expectations after spending almost $290 million on free agents during their 2-for-1 offseason.

Trading for one season of Wade Davis at $10 million – and betting his right arm can withstand another deep playoff run – feels logical and measured in an environment where the New York Yankees just gave Aroldis Chapman a five-year, $86 million contract that smashed the record for closers.

Giving up Jorge Soler – an immense Cuban talent who looks like an NFL linebacker and once sparked a bidding war among big-market teams like the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers – seems painless. The Cubs have a roster crunch and obvious concerns about Soler’s ability to stay healthy and can’t turn him into the part-time designated hitter the Kansas City Royals envision.

But don’t confuse acting rational at the winter meetings with thinking small. Everything becomes clearer once you escape the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center bubble and head toward Reagan National Airport. Make no mistake, the Cubs left Washington on Thursday after acquiring the closer they believe will get the final out of the 2017 World Series.

“The Wade Davis move is an aggressive move,” team president Theo Epstein said. “It’s not like a hedge or a cautious move. We traded a longer-term asset for a short-term asset. But if you do that, you have to make sure the short-term asset is an impact one. And that was the case with Chapman. And that’s now the case with Davis.

“I see that as an aggressive move of an organization that’s hungry to win another World Series.”

After the Cubs handed manager Joe Maddon a shiny new toy – and gave up uber-prospect Gleyber Torres in that blockbuster Chapman deal with the Yankees in late July – Epstein asked: “If not now, when?”

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 

The Cubs viewed Chapman strictly as a rental and showed no interest in bringing him back to Chicago. The end would always have to justify the means after trading for a player who began the season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. The Cubs got that championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, so it won’t really matter if Torres becomes a star in The Bronx.

Beyond the enormous financial commitment and off-the-field concerns with Chapman, the Cubs are now getting an All-Star closer who worked at his craft by first making 88 starts in the big leagues. Where dealing with Chapman presented a language barrier and his preference to work one clean inning at a time, Maddon managed Davis during his first four seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“They’re just different kinds of pitchers,” Maddon said. “I mean, Aroldis is pretty great. There’s several guys out there right now that everybody would like to have – and the guys that are out there as free agents are obvious. Guys like Wade Davis – ask around the industry – how many people would like to have him also?

“I can’t tell you he’s better. He’s just different. Like I said, Aroldis pretty much relies on his fastball and he’s got a great slider, whereas Wade, growing up as a starter, pitches.

“It’s just a different method of closing.”

Chapman is an athletic freak who created a buzz throughout Wrigley Field as fans looked up at the 3,990-square-foot LED video board for the velocity readings. He will turn 29 in spring training, but at some point the question will inevitably become: Can he pitch with something less than a 103-mph fastball?

Instead of waiting to pounce at the trade deadline, having Davis from Opening Day through possibly October should help protect Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm from a manager who wants to win every pitch and pushes his relievers hard.

Credit Chapman for evolving in the World Series and throwing 97 pitches in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined. But adding Davis shows the Cubs want to be a dynasty.

“He’s definitely a difference-maker,” Maddon said. “His stuff is that good. He’s high velocity, great cutter, very good curveball. He knows how to pitch, too, so part of the allure with him is he’s just not a thrower out there.

“He has other things other than his fastball. He gets out righties and lefties. So he pretty much does it all.”