The Cubs Bullpen - fasten your seatbelts
There has been a lot written and a lot of agonizing over the Cubs bullpen of late. After heartbreaking losses like Tuesday's 11-9 defeat to the Reds, and several tight, anxious wins with our relievers at the helm, it is time to take a look at the people upon whose shoulders the Cubs' fortunes rest.
There are some new faces, given the spate of bullpen injuries and DL trips (3 to be precise), and some old hands. Rest assured, some are more reliable than others, so without further ado, the 'pen.
(Apologies for some possible discrepancies in stats provided - different sources like Cubs.com, ESPN.com and Yahoo! all have slightly different numbers)
BARTOSH, Cliff - LHP
0-0, 2.35 ERA
7 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K
Bartosh, acquired in the off-season from the Cleveland Indians, is an unknown quality. Having spent the majority of his baseball career in the Minor Leagues, Dusty is rather selective about using his services. He has already said that he would be used predominantly in situations "against batters uncomfortable with the breaking ball", and most appearances have either come in extremely limited relief during close games, finishing out the final 1/3 of an Inning, or late in games where the outcome is virtually decided (e.g. pitching the final 2 Innings with a 7-1 lead vs. the Reds).
Nevertheless, he has been steady despite high walk totals in his outings, and he might well prove to be a nice short relief option in the long run.
HAWKINS, LaTroy - RHP
1-1, 3 SV, 4.00 ERA
9 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
In contrast to Bartosh, a lot is known about LaTroy. Dominating the Cubs' headlines recently for more negative reasons, a solid 9th Inning outing tonight vs. the Reds (a tie game at 7, struck out 2 of 3 batters faced) might show his ability to forget what has come before.
Baker has a closer problem on his hands, largely due to 2 blown saves by Hawkins, and the situation is still unresolved. Fox tried it once successfully, and then suffered a possible career-ending aggravation to recurring elbow injuries. Wuertz is still a little fresh out of the minors, and Dusty's always shown more of a preference to look to senior players in the most important roles (I can see that as the only earthly reason why Macias continues to see at-bats as a PH late in games). That being said, Hawkins was steady tonight, and might still prove to be the best option in an ailing and tired bullpen.
LaTroy looks better and more comfortable in that 8th Inning set-up role, where guys like Tom Gordon and J.C. Romero have earned their wages fairly consistently, but he might have to swallow that desire and keep appearing in the 9th until any kind of deal occurs for a bonafide closer.
NOVOA, Roberto - RHP
0-0, 9.00 ERA
IP, 2 H, ER, BB
Fresh out of the minor league, Novoa entered tonight's game and gave up a run in the 7th, the last the Reds would score in the contest.
Novoa pitched in 16 games for the Tigers in 2004, going 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA in 21 IP.
He is an unknown quantity along with Bartosh, and I have yet to figure out what he will bring to the rotation (brought from Detroit as part of the deal that sent Farnsworth packing), but I already prefer him to Chad Fox and Jon Leicester.
OHMAN, William - LHP
0-0, 0.00 ERA
1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, K
Ohman, owner of perhaps the best pun-able name on the Cubs roster, is another unknown. Brought up due to injuries and general bullpen boredom, the German-born lefty provides the relief corps with yet another unstable pitcher with an extensive personal injury history. Ohman has been with the Cubs organization since 2000, but last pitched in the Majors during the 2001 campaign.
Where was he between 2001 and today?
Well, funnily enough, he was inactive for the 2002 and 2003 campaigns due to - you guessed it - rehab and recovery from two major surgeries on his pitching elbow. In 2004, Ohman went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA for AAA-Iowa, striking out 75 batters in 52 1/3 IP. Well done there, Will.
Ohman is relatively unknown and irritatingly vulnerable to inflammation, future injury, and bursitis in that bionic left arm. Expect to see him in that pitching role whereby he comes in, faces one batter, records the out or lets him on base, and then departs. Watch this space.
REMLINGER, Mike - LHP
0-1, 6.75 ERA
6 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Another lefty! But finally someone we can write about!
Remlinger: that creep can roll, man. 14-year veteran of MLB, the man has pitched incredibly well for some incredibly successful teams (here's looking at you, Atlanta Braves).
With a career line of 51-49, and a 3.79 ERA, ol' Mike is a valuable asset to the Cubs bullpen. Remlinger is the glue holding together the tired arms of his colleagues, and expect to see him used in just about every situation imaginable - possible spot-starter if everything goes downhill (he can go 3 or 4 Innings if all else fails), long relief for someone like Dumpster, short relief in close games or even bit-part closer (18 Saves in 40 Opportunities lifetime, not great but we'll take it).
The man has seen it all, and with the Cubs again in 2005, he'll probably see it all again.
RUSCH, Glendon - LHP
2-0, 2.19 ERA
14 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 8 BB, 9 K
Lefty mania in Dusty's Chicago!
Rusch, perhaps the happiest man on team photo day, is another solid, reliable option in the Cubs stable. With numbers like that to date, no wonder a smile covers his entire face.
Glendon, like Remlinger, is versatile and can be used in any wacky situations - pinch-runner for Macias or Perez, batboy, Dusty's laundry, spot-starter or everyday, every scoreline reliever. Rusch's command has been steadier than in recent memory (1-12, 6.42 ERA for the Brewers in 2003, lifetime 50-78, 4.90 ERA just for reference after a solid 2004 for the Cubbies), and Dusty will no doubt extract as much from his pitching control and selection as is humanly possible.
I like Glendon, and see him being a steady achiever in relief.
WUERTZ, Michael - RHP
1-1, 2.70 ERA
10 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 10 K
The future Golden Child of the relief staff, Wuertz's reliable rise from the farm system has seen him take pride of place next to the likes of Prior and Zambrosia on the dugout bench. Still a little rough around the edges, Baker will take his time (as much as he has left @ Wrigley) to slowly and carefully groom him into possible closer material.
Wuertz has a solid, strong arm, pitching more than 150 Innings of work in a season 4 times in his career. (Career high: 171 1/3 IP for A-Daytona, 2000).
If Dusty plays his cards right (and those cards don't have "Remove Wuertz from game, send in Hollandsworth to pinch-hit"), Wuertz will be a key figure in any aspirations for success for the 2005 Cubs.