This closer situation is, uh, “organic.”
Cubs manager Rick Renteria couldn’t call it a “dumpster fire” while meeting with the media on Thursday morning at Wrigley Field. And he wouldn’t say who’d get the ball the next time the Cubs have a lead in the ninth inning.
“Whatever the situation might dictate,” Renteria said, “or what we feel like we need to do, we’ll try to do it. Pitchers want to feel comfortable in particular roles and so on. Right now, it’s, again, organic.”
The Cubs are 2-for-6 in save opportunities, giving fans and reporters Carlos Marmol flashbacks. They reshaped their bullpen by calling up right-hander Neil Ramirez and left-hander Zac Rosscup from Triple-A Iowa while optioning reliever Blake Parker to Des Moines and putting outfielder Justin Ruggiano (strained left hamstring) on the disabled list.
“We added some more power arms to the mix,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It will probably wind up settling out where someone ends up being our closer and holds onto the job. But I think Ricky’s doing the right thing right now. He’s going to try some people out in that role and get to a place where people (are) comfortable (and) successful in their roles. We’ll probably go from there.
“But I don’t think defining jobs and defining roles before they’re defined is helpful. That’s what (Ricky) means by organic.”
Until those roster moves, the Cubs had essentially been working with a six-man bullpen for almost two weeks, limiting ex-closer Jose Veras (15.88 ERA) to blowout games until he figures things out again.
“It might be fluid for awhile,” Hoyer said. “We haven’t had that extended success with guys in different roles where you can say: ‘OK, that makes sense now. Let’s stick with that.’”
Pedro Strop – who’s shown flashes of dominance as a setup guy and looked like the unofficial closer earlier this week – had the meltdown in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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It became a costly ninth inning, with Ruggiano feeling a pop while chasing after a flyball and projecting a best-case scenario would be missing about four weeks. Renteria said the Cubs planned to go with four outfielders and carry 13 pitchers for the next 15 days.
Hector Rondon – the promising Rule 5 guy with a 0.79 ERA – missed most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery and a second elbow procedure. Justin Grimm is a potential starter who made only three relief appearances in his minor-league career. Ex-manager Dale Sveum pushed James Russell the last two seasons, using the lefty in 151 games combined.
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“We’re very aware,” Hoyer said. “We talked to Ricky about it and he’s sensitive to it. We have some young guys in the bullpen. We don’t want to overwork those guys and some of the games have pushed us a little bit.”
So even if the Cubs have a ninth-inning lead only once or twice a week, the daily closer questions will keep coming at the first-year manager.
“You can’t ever assume, especially in that role,” Renteria said. “You’re still very mindful of protecting them as much as you can.”