Posted on 22 April 2010 by Lou
This crazy Cubs season gets even crazier as the Cubs opt to send ace starter Carlos Zambrano to the Cubs bullpen. What are GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella thinking?!?!
Granted the bullpen has been brutal early in the season – 1-6 record with a 6.15 ERA – costing the club at least 4 or 5 games in which they held the lead in the 7th inning or later. And granted, Carlos Silva (2-0, 0.95 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in 3 starts) and Tom Gorzelanny (0-1, 1.93 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 3 starts) – the 2 pitchers who earned starting rotation spots until Ted Lilly could return from injury – have pitched well beyond expectations. But is moving the “ace” of your staff – the highest paid starting pitcher on the team – into the right-handed throwing, 8th inning SET-UP role really the answer? This astounds me.
Pinella had this to say about the move — “We’ll have a Carlos setup guy and a Carlos closer… I talked to Carlos today and told him we really needed him in the bullpen, and that we felt he could do a nice job for us. He said he’d do what’s best for the team. I’m very appreciative. He talked about maturing. This proves it to me.”
Big Z for his part said the right things too — “I told Lou I wanted to help this team until you find somebody. I told him I want to be back for the playoffs. If we go to the playoffs, I want to go back to the rotation… I don’t like to be a reliever. I don’t want to be a reliever. This team needs somebody to step up and help the bullpen.”
WOW – I am still in shock. I can’t see the club keeping Big Z in the bullpen for long. How do you justify paying a set-up guy $17 million per year? It doesn’t make any sense. I guess this might help stabilize things for a little while until the younger players can get their feet on the ground in the bullpen or until Hendry can make a move to bring in a veteran reliever into the mix for the late innings. In addition to the money issue, who knows how effective Big Z will be out of the ‘pen. Being a reliever, you have to get warmed up differently, you come into the game in different situations and you might have to start throwing out of the stretch right away. Can Big Z really adjust to this new role in 3 days? Guess we’ll see very very soon. Zambrano could make a relief appearance as early as this Friday against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee…
Posted on 21 April 2010 by Lou
So much for righting the ship against the lowly New York Mets – Carlos Zambrano took the loss in the Cubs 4-0 loss against the Mets on Tuesday night. But this wasn’t all Zambrano’s fault. Sure, he had trouble with his control early on. And his walk to the pitcher with 2 outs in the bottom of the 2nd inning kept the inning alive for the next batter – Jose Reyes – to stroke a 2-run triple to left center field to give the Mets the early lead. But Big Z found a way to work 6 strong innings, giving up just those 2 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. He racked up 9 K’s. It was the Cubs 4th quality start in the last 6 games, but the Cubs have a 1-5 record during that stretch. During the team’s current 4-game losing streak, they have scored just 6 total runs. That is completely unacceptable, especially when you are playing the worst team in the NL Central – the Astros – and the worst team in the NL East – the Mets.
Pretty much every Cubs batter is in a funk, but no one is struggling more than clean-up hitter Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez is hitting .145 with a .213 on-base percentage. He leads the team with 19 strikeouts in just 14 games. Ouch. Ramirez is frustrated with his effort thus far — “I’m not seeing the ball good right now. I’m swinging at too many bad pitches… I just have to stay focused and get some better pitches to hit… I'[m trying to do too much and trying to hit a four-run home run with nobody on base… I haven’t gotten the job done. No excuses. I’m 100 percent. I just have to keep working and try to get out of it.”
Manager Lou Pinella is also frustrated as even his tinkering with the batting order each night in New York hasn’t worked — “I don’t think anybody is too pleased… We had chances. We just don’t seem to get base hits with men on base or men in scoring position.”
I feel like I am writing a bunch of similar posts to the ones I wrote during the Cubs 2009 atrocious season. See my thoughts on how good the Cubs starting pitching was in 2009 and how well the pitching staff did down the stretch despite limited run support. My biggest fear is that the Cubs hitters get on track only to have the starting pitching go down the drain. Guess we have to be patient – it is only April 21st, but if the Cubs continue to under-perform with the highest payroll in the National League, look for the Ricketts Family to make some changes (hear that Jim Hendry, Lou Pinella?) this off-season.
Posted on 19 April 2010 by Lou
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating homestand for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The bullpen wasted another good start from Ryan Dempster (see season game 2 in 3-2 loss to Braves in Atlanta) as Carlos Marmol blew his 1st save of the season. Dempster worked 7 2/3 amazing innings until he ran into a little trouble in the 8th inning. After walking Michael Bourn to put 2 men on the 8th inning with 2 out (after 120 pitches), Manager Lou Pinella opted to go with closer Carlos Marmol to end the threat in the 8th. Despite giving up an RBI single to Jeff Keppinger, he did strike out Pedro Feliz to preserve the 2-1 Cubs lead. But Marmol had a mental lapse in the 9th inning giving up a single to Hunter Pence and a game-tying double to Geoff Blum that sent the game into extra innings. In the 10th inning, Sean Marshall allowed the winning run to score after a lead-off double by Jason Michaels and a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz.
Just like that, the Astros – who came into the series against the Cubs with 1 win in 9 tries – had scored 1 run in each of the 8th, 9th and 10th innings to pull off the improbable road win and clinch their first series win in 2010. Not good, not good at all.
Seems like the same old story through 2 weeks of the season. Good starting pitching wasted by bad bullpen work and poor hitting. The Cubs offense managed just 2 runs and 7 hits and 3 walks off of Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez and 3 relievers. Marlon Byrd had 3 of the Cubs hits, but is still hitting just .244 early on. Geovany Soto seems to have found his groove a little bit, notching 2 hits to increase his batting average to .308. But the team is still not getting any clutch hitting and very little production from the middle of the lineup.
With the 3-3 homestand, the Cubs have started the season with a 5-7 record. They are already 3 full games behind the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals and they have already lost 4 games in which they held the lead in the 7th inning or later. Until this team can figure out how to win the close games, it is going to continue to be a long and frustrating year for Cubs fans all around the country. GM Jim Hendry really needs to figure out a more veteran option for the bullpen very soon because the season could get away from this squad in a hurry.
The only good thing – the Cubs visit the 4-8 Mets for a 4-game series at CITI Field this week. The Mets even had to play a 20-inning game on Saturday, taxing their bullpen and having to use starter Mike Pelfrey to close the game (Pelfrey is still scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Cubs). If ever there was a team that the Cubs could find their way against, it would be the Mets. Randy Wells looks to help the Cubs stop their 2-game losing streak. He will square off against young lefty John Niese for the Mets. Stay tuned Cubs fans – a bad showing in New York could mean a Lou Pinella explosion very soon…
Posted on 16 April 2010 by Lou
We should see Ted Lilly back in the Cubs rotation pretty soon — he will make his final “tune-up” start at Class A Peoria on Monday.
In his previous outing at Triple-A Iowa this past Wednesday, Lilly gave up just 1 run and 1 hit in 4 innings of work. He walked one batter and struck out 4. Lilly was pleased with the start — “Everything went pretty well. I would’ve liked to have thrown a few more pitches. It was fun to get back out there in front of a crowd and compete and face some hitters. I had a good time.”
Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Lilly’s upcoming minor league start on Monday — “We’ll let him go 75-80 pitches. If he’s fine after that one, we’ll get him back in the rotation either over the weekend in Milwaukee or when we get back home.”
Look for Lilly to start on the of the weekend games against the Brewers at Miller Park. Lilly has had success there in the past, and with the Cubs playing “average” baseball these days, they really need to get all their hogs in there as soon as possible…
Posted on 12 April 2010 by Lou
Ryan Dempster takes the hill for his 1st ever home opening start at Wrigley Field for the Cubs. He will square off against Doug Davis of the Milwaukee Brewers. Dempster took a tough no decision on Wednesday against the Braves in Atlanta, tossing 6 innings of 1-run ball. He gave up just 3 total hits and 2 walks, while striking out 9 against an explosive Braves lineup that erupted for 8 runs against Carlos Zambrano in the 1st 2 innings of the season opener just 2 days earlier. Although the Cubs led 2-1 into the 8th inning, John Grabow served up Chipper Jones’ 2-run home run to give the Braves the win. But Dempster has put that behind him — “I’m excited. Any game at Wrigley Field is a lot of fun. The first home opener will be special for me. I’m excited and ready to go and just treat it like any other start… They [the Brewers] have a good team. They always have a good team. I’ve faced them so many times. They know what I throw, they know what I hit. It’s just a matter of going out there and executing pitches.”
Let’s hope that Dempster is on his A game. The Cubs offense has been just downright brutal through the 1st week of the season. After scoring 5 runs in the season opening loss to the Braves, the Cubs have combined for just 13 total runs in the next 5 games – that’s less than 3 runs per game. That is unacceptable from the highest team salary in the National League and it better turn around soon before Manager Lou Pinella lets loose.
One positive – the Cubs have played well at Wrigley Field under Pinella and home field advantage goes a long way in a tough, gritty National League Central Division where every game counts. The Cubs were 12 games over .500 at Wrigley Field in 2009 and they have won 145 games over the last 3 seasons at the Friendly Confines under Pinella – good for a .599 winning percentage. Let’s hope that trend continues in 2010 for the Cubs – they’re going to need it…
Posted on 10 April 2010 by Lou
Ted Lilly’s sore back kept him from making a scheduled start for Triple-A Iowa today. His session was pushed back a few days until Sunday. Although Manager Lou Pinella said that “this is not a setback”, how can it not be? The Cubs were pushing a fast schedule for Lilly to get back into the Cubs starting rotation by the 3rd week of the season. At this rate, it will be a week since his last outing when he threw 67 pitched over 5+ innings in a minor league game in Mesa. Is he really ready? Should they give him another 2 minor league starts to make sure he is fully healed? Given the off days built into the schedule in the 1st two weeks of the season (see below), why rush him back when we won’t have to rely on Carlos Silva or Tom Gorzelanny too much. The Cubs need Lilly to make close to 30 starts, so I would take it slow with the veteran. But I guess they don’t pay me to make these decisions.
Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and Pinella tweaked the Cubs starting rotation a little given Carlos Zambrano’s short opening day start. Zambrano will now start Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati. Tom Gorzelanny gets bumped back to a Sunday start against the Reds. Ryan Dempster will make the Cubs home opener against the Brewers at Wrigley Field on Monday. Wells will face the Brewers on Wednesday, while Zambrano will come back and pitch the series finale against the Brewers on Thursday. Carlos Silva will have to wait a week before he makes his 2nd 2010 start on Friday against the Astros at Wrigley Field. Given all of these off days and the juggling of the rotation, the Cubs will not have needed a true “5-man rotation” until the 3rd week of the season when the Cubs travel to New York to face the Mets.
Let’s hope the Cubs can put together a nice little string of starts against upcoming “weaker opponents” like the Astros, Mets and Nationals in the month of April…
Posted on 03 April 2010 by Lou
The way Tyler Colvin played this spring made Manager Lou Pinella’s decision that much easier. Colvin was the Cubs 1st round pick in the 2006 Draft and at the age of 24, it looks like he is finally ready for the big time. Colvin batted over .450 for much of the spring — leading all of major league baseball — and was the Cubs most consistent hitter right from the start.
Pinella had this to say about Colvin’s play — “There was never really a doubt for a while. He played himself onto the roster and had a great spring… We’re going to get some playing time for Colvin. It’ll be good for all of our outfielders to get a day off occasionally, so they can stay strong and are less prone to injury. We’ll figure out something over the next few days.”
Colvin was humbled by the decision — “We have four great outfielders here who have proven themselves in the Major Leagues and hopefully, when I get in there, I can contribute in some way…The Cubs are trying to win, obviously. They’re trying to get the best guys in here to do the job. We have four great guys here… Hopefully, I can do some good things, too.”
Not only is this a great story, it is a great thing for the Cubs. With Alfonso Soriano’s injury-history and Kosuke Fukudome’s propensity to go into prolonged-slumps, it will be nice for Pinella to have a dependable option out there. When you also consider the fact that 4th outfielder Xavier Nady is also still recovering from shoulder surgery, we could see a lot of Colvin this season.
Posted on 31 March 2010 by Lou
Tom Gorzelanny showed why he deserved to be named a starter by Cubs Manager Lou Pinella earlier this week. Gorzelanny pitched 7 strong innings, giving up 3 ER on 8 hits without any walks. He also struk out 2 batters. Gorzelanny was excited that he kept his club in the game so that they could rally to tie the game in the 7th inning and then win it on Chad Tracy’s 2-run pinch-hit home run in the 8th inning. Gorzelanny had this to say — “I don’t think just because I got the job it’s time to relax. That’s when you get in a lot of trouble. You want to go out there and continue to get better and work on stuff and be ready to pitch well when the season starts… I felt like I did a good hob of throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the zone…”
Carlos Marmol pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings and then gave way to John Grabow to pick up the final 2 outs of the game.
Gorzelanny wasn’t the only player that proved Pinella made the right move when naming his 25-man roaster. Tyler Colvin continued his hot hitting by going 2 for 4 with an RBI and 1 run scored. Pinella has indicated that Colvin will start 2-3 games per week to rest some of the regulars in the outfield…
This was a great win for the Cubs who continue to play way as of late.
Posted on 27 March 2010 by Lou
It was a tale of 2 Carlos’ in the Cubs 5-2 loss to the Oakland A’s on Friday.
Carlos Zambrano became the 2nd Cubs pitcher to go 6 innings as he followed Tom Gorzelanny’s lead from Thursday. Big Z gave up just 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 6. He was in command of all of his pitches and it was great to see him pitch 6 strong innings. He lowered his spring training ERA down to 3.15.
James Russell and Jeff Samardzija each pitched scoreless innings in relief, but it was Carlos Marmol who struggled for the second consecutive day. He gave up another home run, this time a 3-run shot to Travis Buck that broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the 9th inning. Manager Lou Pinella was not pleased with Marmol’s form – “His mechanics are off. What he’s doing is showing the ball to the hitter quicker and he’s losing that nice depth on his breaking ball.” Pinella believes that Marmol is throwing too much from the side instead of over the top, and that that is leading to the ball not snapping on each pitch. He is confident, however, that Marmol and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will be able to fine tune his motion before the start of the 2010 MLB schedule.
We’ll keep you posted…
Posted on 26 March 2010 by Lou
Lou Pinella finally made up his mind – Tom Gorzelanny’s stellar start in the Cubs 7-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday made it easy. Gorzelanny tossed 6 innings – the longest outing by any Cubs starter this spring – giving up just 2 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 4 batters and he lowered his ERA to 3.07.
As for his chances of being tabbed a starter, Gorzelanny had this to say about his start — “I felt I was in the zone a lot and I wasn’t trying to overthrow and I wasn’t trying to do too much. I felt I made some major strides today. There’s always more to do and more to work on… All I can ask for is to pitch well and I hope that’s the case. Wherever they need me, I’ll do my best. If I get to be in the rotation, I’ll run with it and try to claim a spot and keep it — that’s my objective right now.” Well the consistency of his last 2 outings made it that much easier for Pinella to go with him and Carlos Silva as his 2 final starters when camp breaks at the start of April.
The other 2 starters in contention were Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija and both with start the season in the Cubs bullpen. As I called it at the beginning of spring training and just 2 days ago, I figured Pinella would tab Marshall and Samardzija for the bullpen. Both have had success in the bullpen, while Silva and Gorzelanny have had little experience pitching in relief. Even if Marshall and Samardzija had been pitching a lot better than Silva and Gorzelanny, I still fill like Pinella would have tabbed Silva and Gorzelanny for the final 2 starting spots in the rotation. Jeff Gray, Marcos Mateo and John Gaub were each sent down to the minor leagues as well.
I guess we’ll see how this all shakes out. Luckily we’ll only have to see Silva and Gorzelanny in the starting rotation for a few weeks until Ted Lilly returns. Any longer than that, and the Cubs could find themselves in a bit of a hole in 2010 right out of the gate…