If it’s one thing that the Cubs organization likes doing it’s signing players that might be down on their luck, or just coming off bad seasons/injuries. The latest example of that philosophy happened today as the Cubs signed right handed relief pitcher Aaron Crow to a minor league deal. Crow (29) did some solid work out of the Royals bullpen from 2011 – 2013 before being acquired by the Miami Marlins. The ground ball specialist struggled in 2014, I would think a lot of that had to do with a drop in velocity, and subsequent Tommy John surgery.
Definitely a no lose situation here for the Cubs as they look to solidify their bullpen as camp opens. The bullpen battle is definitely something to keep an eye on as the spring progresses, there are a number of talented arms in said race. If Crow can prove to be healthy, and see an uptick in velocity then there is no reason to think that he won’t be a major player in the Cubs’ pen. Quite possibly at the back of the bullpen as well because you really can never have too many bullpen arms.
** Photo credit: Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America
Crow probably won’t be available until June.
The Cubs have been busy so far today, mostly off the field. The club has announced that Brian Schlitter, Junior Lake, and Zac Rosscup have all been optioned to Iowa. The news was expected for the most part as all three guys have options left, but there was an outside chance that Lake would make the team. What this does mean is that Matt Szczur is all but a lock for the opening night roster, as Cubs beat writers pointed out on twitter, it’s down to three guys for two spots (Szczur, Sweeney, and Herrera). I think Szczur and Jonathan Herrera have the edge right now, Szczur can play all over the outfield with a tremendous glove, and Hererra would be only the second guy off the bench that can play the infield. This leaves Sweeney as the odd man out, the only thing that he really brings to the table is the left handed bat, but I don’t think that is enough to keep him around. The Cubs also made it clear today that they will be starting the season with three catchers, so Miguel Montero, David Ross, and Welington Castillo will all be in Chicago.
The bullpen is also starting to come together, but the question of what do with Edwin Jackson remains. Jackson will not be a member of the five man staff, and will not act in some sort of piggyback role with Travis Wood, so what to do? The Cubs have already made a huge financial commitment to Jackson so cutting him doesn’t seem to be an option, but the Cubs could admit the mistake and move on. If I had to guess, I think that Drake Britton will be waived, and the bullpen will have Jackson as a long guy which means the Cubs will carry only one left-handed arm in the pen, Phil Coke. Still a lot to figure out as we are now only four days from the start of the season.
Some good news today on the injury front, the Cubs have activated Kyuji Fujikawa from the DL and he will join the team in Washington tonight. Rafael Dolis was sent back to Iowa, and Kameron Loe refused his assignment to Iowa so he has been released. Fujikawa, assuming he is healthy should calm down a bullpen that has been shaky to say the least. With the emergence of Kevin Gregg as the new Cubs closer they now have a formidable seventh (Russell) eighth (Fujikawa) and ninth (Gregg). Wouldn’t be surprised to see Russell and Fujikawa flipped so that Fuji can ease his way back into the bullpen rotation. On paper at least it looks like the toughest spot for the bullpen will be that middle guy, sixth/seventh innings. Luckily for the Cubs their starting pitching has done a tremendous job of getting the ball to the seventh inning, if they can keep doing that they might start seeing no decisions start turning into wins.
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It’s only two games, but it’s certainly a disturbing trend. For the second straight game the Cubs played great baseball through 7 innings, and seemed to be on their way to a victory. Instead of being 2-0, they are now 0-2 after Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol both were terrible for the second straight afternoon. Heading to the 8th inning the Cubs led 4-2 with Kerry Wood taking the mound. Things went well enough early as Wood set down the first two Nationals hitters that he faced, then things got ugly, really fast. Danny Espinosa got the rally started launching a solo shot to the left center bleachers to make it a 4-3 game. No harm done, solo home runs will happen, especially with the wind blowing out, but Wood unraveled. Wood gave up a broken bat single to Ryan Zimmerman, then another base hit to Adam Laroche, and just like that his day was over. Sveum decided to go back to Marmol to try to get out of the inning, but that only threw gasoline on the fire. Marmol started his effort with a walk to Jayson Werth, he then gave up a two run single to Chad Tracy, and ended his day with by giving up a double to Bernadina and just like that it was 6-4 Nats, and the game was all but lost.
The Cubs coaching staff and front office continues to mull over the final members of the bullpen with some saying that the final decisions will not be made until the Cubs workout day at Wrigley on Wednesday. In the meantime, here are all the position players that will be on the Cubs 25 man roster opening day.
The Cubs trimmed another number off their camp roster today by outrighting Andy Sonnanstine to Triple-A Iowa. Sonnanstine, who was signed by the Cubs on December 26 has been particularly bad this spring. The 29-year-old right hander gave up eight runs on 13 hits and three walks over five innings while striking out three. Sonnanstine was expected to compete for a bullpen spot this spring, he could still help the Cubs out down the road later this season, but that remains to be seen. The move takes Sonnanstine off of the Cubs 40-man roster which now stands at 39 players. The Cubs camp roster is down to 47 players, 21 pitchers, five catchers, and 12 infielders.
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– George Cotugno