Chicago Cubs

Wellemeyer, Maine among latest Cubs cuts

418626.jpg

Wellemeyer, Maine among latest Cubs cuts

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 11:04 a.m. Updated: 7:48 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs delayed the major decisions on their bullpen and rotation for another day, but their roster continues to come into focus.

Relievers Scott Maine and Justin Berg were optioned to Triple-A Iowa, while pitchers Todd Wellemeyer and Angel Guzman were assigned to minor-league camp. Another round of cuts on Wednesday sliced the overall number to 36 players.

By subtracting Maine a 26-year-old they think has a very bright future the Cubs will likely go with three other left-handers in their bullpen: Sean Marshall, John Grabow and James Russell.

READ: Marlon Byrd refuses to slow down

Manager Mike Quade wouldnt go quite that far just yet, only calling it a valid possibility thats prominent in my mind.

Maine made his major-league debut late last season and posted a 2.08 ERA in 13 relief appearances. But the left-hander struggled with the feel for his slider in Arizona and gave up five runs in six innings.

Im not going to do down there and bash them, Maine said. They told me that if I keep performing (like I did) last year and get better, then they dont see a reason why Im not up there again.

Wellemeyer has been dealing with a hip injury and hasnt pitched in a Cactus League game since March 12. It has been a string of bad luck for the 32-year-old non-roster invitee.

READ: Cubs will take another look at Cashner vs. Silva

Wellemeyers essentially pitched six innings since straining his quadriceps last June. That contributed to his release from the San Francisco Giants and missing out on the World Series experience. He plans to discuss his future with his agent, Barry Meister.

Very disappointing, Wellemeyer said. I didnt really get a single inning live during a game where I felt like there wasnt a stabbing pain on my hip. I wish I could have gone out there and been healthy, but it is what it is.

Guzman is the guy everyone in camp is rooting for. A series of injuries have derailed his once promising career, but he remains relentlessly upbeat and always has a smile on his face. Thats why the front office wouldnt hesitate to hire him as soon as hes done playing.

Exactly one year ago (March 23), Dr. James Andrews performed arthroscopic surgery on Guzmans right shoulder. As a non-roster player, he already packed up and moved out of the major-league clubhouse over the weekend. Hes scheduled to throw in a minor-league game next week, which would be another remarkable step in his journey.

Etc.

Ernie Banks will be honored by Major League Baseball in May alongside actor Morgan Freeman and musician Carlos Santana as part of the Civil Rights Game in Atlanta. Carlos Zambrano threw 82 pitches across four innings on Wednesday in a minor-league game. Catcher Max Ramirez (wrist) was scheduled for an MRI. Up next: vs. White Sox at HoHoKam Park, Matt Garza vs. Phil Humber, 4:05 p.m., CSN.

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

Mike Montgomery will gladly aid Cubs as spot starter, but could this be a mini audition for 2018 rotation?

mike_montgomery_0821.jpg
USA TODAY

Mike Montgomery will gladly aid Cubs as spot starter, but could this be a mini audition for 2018 rotation?

Jon Lester isn’t expected to be on the disabled list for long, which of course is great news for the Cubs.

But while he’s there, it’s once again time for Mike Montgomery to audition for a spot in the team’s 2018 starting rotation.

The Cubs are facing the possibility of losing two members of that starting staff this offseason, when both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will be free agents. Montgomery seems like a logical replacement, but he’ll need to be better than he’s been as a starter this season. He’s put up a 5.13 ERA in eight starts.

He’ll get another opportunity to show his stuff over the next week or so, as he makes one or two spot starts with Lester on the shelf resting up his left lat tightness and general shoulder fatigue.

“I don’t want to see anybody get hurt, especially our ace. But it’s a challenge. I’m looking forward to going out there and helping the team win,” Montgomery said over the weekend. “I’m going to go out there and prepare and be ready to help this team get to the playoffs.”

Montgomery doesn’t have to worry about instilling confidence in his bosses. Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein both lauded Montgomery’s efforts since he was acquired about a year ago, in the middle of the 2016 team’s march to that curse-smashing World Series win. It was Montgomery who earned the save in Game 7.

And again this season Montgomery has given plenty of reason for those guys to have confidence in him. He’s turned in a strong 2.57 ERA in 27 relief appearances, one of the more reliable arms out of what is becoming an increasingly shaky bullpen. This past Thursday, he relieved the early-to-depart Lester, pitching 4.1 shutout innings and allowing just three hits and a walk against the Cincinnati Reds.

Throw in the versatility of being able to effectively switch between starting and relieving, and that’s a recipe for sticking on a big league roster.

“He’s good about bouncing back and forth,” Maddon said. “He’s been invaluable to us the last couple years. He’s still learning his craft. Every time I talk to him it’s kind of like the little lightbulb constantly goes off for him regarding his stuff and how to utilize it. That’s what I’ve been talking about with him the last couple years. This guy’s got all kinds of tools in the toolbox but he doesn’t really know how to utilize them all, and I think he’s finally understanding the cutter, the curve, the changeup to go with the fastball. He’s one of those guys that he should never get wild with his fastball because his pitches are so good and he can throw them for a strike.”

Montgomery’s reliability has been enough that Epstein said there’s no plan for the Cubs to add another starting pitcher before this month’s waiver trade deadline. Of course, the fact that Lester’s injury isn’t as bad as initially feared and the July acquisition of Jose Quintana factors into that, as well.

“We’ve expended a lot of prospect capital trying to make this team better. We think it’s just a start or two (that Lester will miss), and Mike Montgomery is more than capable of filling in,” Epstein said. “He’s thrown the ball really well, like what we saw from him (Thursday). So we’re going to fill that vacancy internally with Mike and go from there.”

While every start made by any pitcher this season seems important — the Cubs entered Monday’s day off with just a two-game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central standings, with a playoff spot hardly guaranteed — Montgomery’s efforts could have just as great an effect on next season. If Arrieta and Lackey both end up departing via free agency, the Cubs will need some replacements. Montgomery figures to be among the first options, especially if this midseason audition goes well.

Of course, Montgomery is happy to do whatever he needs to to help his team. He’s not complaining about a bullpen role or one that has him shuttling between the relief corps and the rotation. But he admitted that starting is his goal, meaning the importance of this moment likely hasn't been lost on him.

“Yeah, absolutely, I wanted to start. But also I wanted to be a guy who could fill another role and hopes that makes our team better,” he said. “If me starting makes us better in their mind, then that’s what I want ideally. But I’ve realized I can’t always control that, I can go out there and pitch well. If I pitch well, they’re probably going to give me more opportunities, which is probably going to lead to starting.

“I think it’s because I spent five years in Triple-A from the time I was 21 and I had a bigger ego. And then you realize that you just want to be in the big leagues and that Triple-A kind of stinks. I think it’s just how I’ve gotten to this point. And coming here last year from a team that was trying to get in the playoffs to a team that was clearly going to win the division, you realize that your role isn’t to come here and start making demands, it’s to come here and just do your job.”

Right now, the Cubs need Montgomery to fill the void while Lester rests up. And if he can make his starts look a little more like his bullpen outings, he’ll do just that. And if that’s what happens, maybe they’ll call on him next season to do a whole lot more.

That Anthony Rizzo is so hot right now: Cubs' first baseman named NL Player of the Week

anthony_rizzo_0821.jpg
USA TODAY

That Anthony Rizzo is so hot right now: Cubs' first baseman named NL Player of the Week

That Anthony Rizzo is so hot right now.

And Major League Baseball noticed.

Rizzo was announced as the National League Player of the Week on Monday after a terrific performance last week.

The Cubs' first baseman collected 12 hits, drove in 13 runs and slashed a ridiculous .429/.484/.750.

The Cubs had a pretty good week as a team, too, winning five of their seven games against the visiting Cincinnati Reds and Toronto Blue Jays.

They take their three-game winning streak to Ohio to start a three-game set with the Reds on Tuesday.