Afternoon Delight: Dominant Bullpen on the Horizon?

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The bullpen is a tricky thing, from year to year guys come and go, and every once in a while a team boasts a dominant bullpen relatively out of nowhere.  Off-season acquisitions, and power arms marinating on the farm are usually catalysts for such success, but injuries, and unforeseen ineffectiveness can derail the pen quickly.  Given the large number of variables that go into predicting the success of a bullpen it’s usually an exercise in futility, but here goes…  The Cubs’ bullpen has a chance to be dominant (They all do!  You’re screaming), well, let’s just look at the options, shall we?

The Cubs have a solid core group of guys coming back this year, which could point to a reasonable amount of success in 2016.  I base this mostly on the fact that the Cubs had the 8th best bullpen ERA in the Majors last year, and names like Brian Schlitter, Rafael Soriano, Edwin Jackson (wasn’t too terrible in this role), Gonzalez Germen, and Phil Coke were members of said pen.  To be fair, guys like Trevor Cahill, and Travis Wood exceeded expectations in rather unfamiliar bullpen roles last year, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that they will come back down to Earth a bit.  The fact remains though, the best arms out of that Cubs pen are back this year, and there really is no reason to expect a significant drop in performance.  Let’s break down the possible bullpen roles, yes, despite the crazy competition that will be taking place this spring.

Closer – Hector Rondon

Set up – Pedro Strop

Set up – Justin Grimm

Middle Relief – Adam Warren (acquisition) (Rotation Chance)

Middle Relief – Rex Brothers (acquisition)

Middle Relief – Neil Ramirez

Long Relief – Travis Wood

Long Relief – Trevor Cahill (Rotation chance)

On paper… on paper, that looks pretty darn good, and obviously as I write this I’m using the most optimistic thoughts as possible.  A big key here is the health of Neil Ramirez, he was outstanding in 2014, and parts of 2015 when he wasn’t battling back from injuries, a healthy Ramirez goes a long way towards a great 2016.  Adam Warren proves to be an upgrade over guys that the Cubs had to turn to last year in tough spots, like Jason Motte (again, ignore the injuries for the sake of this conversation).  There is also a chance that Warren will have an opportunity to win a rotation spot, but guys with flexibility are all the rage for Joe Maddon.  Rex Brothers, who was dominate in 2013, and struggled mightily in 2014, looks to bounce back, and if he does proves to be another rather large upgrade.  Young arms like Carl Edwards Jr., Duane Underwood Jr., and Pierce Johnson could also make an impact in the Cubs pen this year despite being starters while working their way through the organization, save for Edwards Jr. last year.

The talent pool is better than last year, and the depth is better as well, those two things put the Cubs in a good spot to start the spring.  If injuries pop up, like they absolutely will, the Cubs are in a better position to handle them, and still might have a few new additions that could surprise during camp, and win a job.

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Riding the Bus: May 7, 2015 (Cubs Minor League Recaps)

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THURSDAY • MAY 7, 2015

Myrtle Beach 5-7 Final

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Walk-off!  The Pelicans improved to a seasons best seven games over .500 with a 2-1 win over Salem thanks to a Billy McKinney walk-off dinger!  You can also thank Duane Underwood for dominating on the mound.

At the Plate:

  • Mark Zagunis is an on base machine, he was 0-for-2 with three walks in the win.
  • Billy McKinney is similar to Zagunis in regards to being one of those on base machines, he was 1-for-1 with FOUR walks, said walk-off dinger, an RBI, and a run scored.
  • Jacob Rogers, and Trey Martin each had one hit, both singles.

On the Mound:

  • Duane Underwood Jr. got the start tonight, and was brilliant.  He worked seven innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking one, and striking out four.
  • Juan Paniagua was solid out of the pen, he worked two scoreless innings while striking out one.
  • Michael Heesch picked up his second win of the season, he worked a scoreless inning in doing so.

Tennessee Smokies 5-7 Final

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A tough loss for the Smokies as they saw an early 4-0 lead slip away in a 5-4 loss.  The Smokies scored four times in the first inning and couldn’t find anymore offense the rest of the way.

At the Plate:

  • Albert Almora has picked up where he left off before the injury, he was 1-for-4 with a run scored, he’s hitting .310 on the season.
  • Kyle Schwarber was solid in this one, he went 1-for-4 with a run scored.
  • Bijan Rademacher had the big hit for the Smokies, he was 1-for-4 with a double, and three RBI’s.
  • Elliot Soto was the best of the bunch tonight, he was 2-for-3 with an RBI.

On the Mound:

  • Corey Black got the start, and he struggled with his command, he worked five innings, giving up three runs on four hits while walking four, and striking out seven.
  • Fernando Cruz was outstanding out of the pen, he worked three scoreless innings, giving up one run, unearned, on one hit while striking out four.
  • Stephen Perakslis picked up the loss in this one, he worked two-thirds of an inning, giving up one run on three hits.

South Bend 5-7 Final

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Things got a little close late in this one but the South Bend Cubs hung on to beat Bowling Green 3-2.  Not many teams can say that as Bowling Green boasts a 17-11 record on the year, tonight the Cubs had just enough.

At the Plate:

  • Charcer Burks has been great this year, it continued tonight, he was 1-for-3 with two walks, and two RBI’s.
  • Justin Marra found some extra base magic, he was 1-for-3 with a double, and a walk.
  • Jesse Hodges was solid as well, he went 1-for-3 with his fifth double of the year, a walk, and a run scored.
  • Jeffrey Baez had a nice game, he went 1-for-3 with a walk, and a run scored, maybe that will get him going.
  • Gleyber Torres continues to get on base, he was 1-for-4 with a walk in the win.

On the Mound:

  • Zach Hedges got the start, and he does what he usually does, put up zeroes.  He worked five scoreless innings, giving up three hits while walking two, and striking out four.
  • Ryan McNeil was decent out of the pen, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up one run on two hits while striking out two.
  • Jordan Minch was touched up, he worked 1.2 innings, giving up one run on one hit while walking one, and striking out two.
  • James Farris had his shortest outing of the year, but it was all he needed to pick up his third save of the year.  He worked a third of an inning to shut the door.

Iowa Cubs 5-7 Final

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The Iowa Cubs didn’t have much going in this one, but found a way to push four runs across the plate in the seventh for a 4-1 victory in Nashville.

At the Plate:

  • Arismendy Alcantara has been flashing the power in Iowa, he was 1-for-4 with a walk, his fourth dinger, two RBI’s, a stolen base, and a run scored.
  • Mike Baxter has been solid all year, he was 2-for-4 with a run scored, he’s now hitting .314 on the season.
  • Jonathan Mota was right in the middle of the action, he went 2-for-4 with a run scored in the win.
  • John Andreoli, Chris Valaika, and Taylor Davis all had one hit tonight.

On the Mound:

  • Tsuyoshi Wada got the start, and continues to make a push to be promoted, he worked 5.2 innings, giving up one run on four hits while walking two, and striking out six.
  • Gonzalez Germen has been awesome in Iowa, he worked 1.1 scoreless innings to pick up his third win, he struck out two in the process.
  • Blake Cooper worked a scoreless inning to pick up his second hold of the year.
  • Brian Schlitter worked a scoreless ninth to pick up his first save of the season.

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Riding the Bus: April 11, 2015 (Cubs Minor League Reports)

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SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2015

South Bend 4-11 Final

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So close, the South Bend Cubs made things very interesting tonight as they scored in the 8th and 9th to push the game to extra’s.  Unfortunately they couldn’t come up with anything else, and Bowling Green tallied twice in the 12th to win 7-5, South Bend’s fist loss of 2015.

At the Plate:

  • Charcer Burks was great out of the lead-off spot, he went 2-for-6 with a double, a triple, and two runs scored.
  • Jeffrey Baez is doing great things at the plate, he was 2-for-4 with two doubles in the loss.  He also had an outfield assist, threw a runner out at the plate.
  • Gleyber Torres broke out tonight, he’s 18.  He went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, and two runs scored.

On the Mound:

  • Erick Leal got the start tonight, and was knocked around a bit, didn’t get much help behind him, though.  He worked five innings, giving up four runs, two earned on eight hits while walking two, and striking out three.
  • Jordan Minch worked a scoreless inning in relief, he did walk two, but escaped the trouble.
  • Ryan McNeil was brilliant tonight, he worked three innings, giving up one run, unearned on one hit while striking out five.
  • Francisco Carrillo got the loss, and only gave up one hit, he worked three innings, giving up two runs on one hit while striking out one.

Myrtle Beach 4-11 Final

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What a thrilling walk-off win for the Pelicans!  All hope looked lost when Wilmington scored twice in the top of the tenth, but the Pelicans surged back to score three times in their half of the tenth to win it.  Some really good performances from Pelican pitching today, kept them in it all night long.

At the Plate:

  • Jeimer Candelario had the big day for the Pelicans, he was 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI’s, and a run scored.
  • Victor Caratini had a huge hit as well, he finished the night 1-for-4 with two RBI’s, and a walk.
  • Shawon Dunston Jr. continued his hot start, he went 2-for-4 in the win, he’s now hitting .400 on the season.

On the Mound:

  • Paul Blackburn made his 2015 debut, and was very good.  He worked five innings, giving up one run on four hits while walking one, and striking out six.
  • Juan Paniagua was even better, he worked a perfect three innings, no hits, runs, or walks while striking out six.
  • Starling Peralta picked up the win, he worked two innings, giving up two runs on four hits while walking one, and striking out five.  That’s right, the Pelicans struck out 17 guys, wow.

Tennessee Smokies 4-11 Final

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Sloppy one tonight as the Smokies committed five errors in a 6-2 loss to the Braves.  Kyle Schwarber launched his first home run of the season, an absolute blast, and things were looking good early.  But a six run seventh for the Braves sealed the Smokie’s fate as they fall to 1-2 on the season.

At the Plate:

  • Pin-Chieh Chen knocked in one of the runs tonight, he finished 1-for-4 with said RBI in the loss.
  • Kyle Schwarber was 2-for-4 with a dinger, an RBI, and a run scored.  Schwarber also gunned down a runner trying to steal second, good stuff.
  • Ryan Dent had a solid game, he went 1-for-2 with a walk, and was one of the few players without an error.
  • Christian Villanueva, and Dan Vogelbach each had one hit tonight.

On the Mound:

  • Felix Pena got the start for the Smokies and was outstanding, he worked six scoreless innings, giving up three hits while walking one, and striking out two.
  • Zach Cates wasn’t as good, he didn’t register an out, he gave up five runs, two earned, on one hit while walking three.
  • P.J. Francescon was solid at the end of this one, he worked two innings, giving up one run, unearned, no hits while walking one, and striking out two.

Iowa Cubs 4-11 Final

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So the Iowa Cubs struggled in the first two games of the season, note to self, don’t anger the Iowa Cubs.  Thirteen runs, and sixteen hits later the Iowa Cubs put their offensive struggles in the rear view mirror.  All eight position players that started had at least one hit, six players had at least two RBI’s, tasty.

At the Plate:  (Take a seat, just going to list them)

  • Adron Chambers was 2-for-5 with two doubles, a walk, two RBI’s, and three runs scored.
  • Addison Russell was 1-for-5 with a walk, and two runs scored.
  • Kris Bryant was 3-for-4 with a dinger, a walk, three RBI’s, a double, and three runs scored.
  • Chris Valaika was 3-for-5 with a walk, a home run, two RBI’s, and a run scored.
  • Junior Lake was 1-for-5 with  two RBI’s, and a run scored.
  • Rubi Silva was 2-for-5 with two RBI’s, a run scored, and a stolen base.
  • Rafael Lopez was 1-for-4 with a walk, two RBI’s, a double, and a stolen base.
  • Mike Baxter was 2-for-5 with a run scored.

I’m tired.

On the Mound:

  • Eric Jokisch got the start but couldn’t work deep enough for the win, he worked 4.2 scoreless innings, giving up three hits while walking three.
  • Blake Cooper was really good out of the pen to get the win, he worked 2.1 scoreless innings, surrendering no hits while striking out four.
  • Gonzalez Germen, and Joe Ortiz each worked a scoreless inning  in relief.

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Riding the Bus – April 9, 2015 (Cubs Minor League Recaps)

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THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2015

South Bend 4-9 Final (1)

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So far so good as the South Bend Cubs make their Cubs affiliate debut with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Bowling Green.  Jake Stinnett got the start for South Bend and was pretty good, he worked five innings, giving up one run on three hits, while walking two, and striking out four.  The game was very much in doubt until Cael Brockmeyer crushed a walk-off dinger to the delight of the South Bend faithful.

At the plate:

  • Jeffrey Baez went 1-for-4 with a home run, an RBI, a stolen base, and a run scored.
  • Cael Brockmeyer had a huge night, he went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a dinger, an RBI, and a run scored.

On the mound:

  • Ryan Williams came on in relief of Stinnett and was spotless, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up one hit while striking out one.
  • James Farris was equally as good and picked up the win, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up one hit while walking two, and striking out four.

Myrtle Beach 4-9 Final (1)

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Talk about a grand entrance to the Cubs organization.  The Myrtle Beach Pelicans exploded this evening, not literally, putting up nine runs on fifteen hits in the victory.  Seven of the nine Pelican hitters had hits, five of them had a multi-hit game.  Duane Underwood was solid, but he could have been throwing underhand and would have picked up the win, but he was really good.

At the plate:

  • Jacob Hannemann did his job at the top of the order, he went 3-for-5 with an RBI, and a run scored.
  • The other Jacob was pretty good too, Jacob Rogers went 3-for-4 with a double, a dinger, two RBI, and two runs scored.
  • Victor Caratini, thanks Braves.  Caratini was 2-for-4 with two RBI in the win.
  • Both Shawon Dunston Jr., and Daniel Lockhart each had a triple in the win.
  • Carlos Penalver was brilliant as a second lead-off man of sorts from the nine spot, he was 3-for-4 with an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base.

On the mound:

  • Duane Underwood was steady as usual in this one, he worked five innings, giving up one run, unearned, while walking two, and striking out five.
  • Jonathan Martinez took over and tossed a scoreless inning, giving up one hit while striking out one.
  • James Pugliese was outstanding, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up two hits while striking out one.
  • Starling Peralta cleaned things up in a mop up role, he worked a scoreless inning, giving up one hit while striking out two.

Tennessee Smokies 4-9 Final

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The Smokies were extremely efficient in this one as they managed to score seven times on just seven hits, not terribly easy to do.  You know what makes it much easy?  Taking walks, the Smokies earned six walks in the win, that’s how you play winning baseball.  The one-two punch of Corey Black, and C.J. Edwards shut the door on the Braves, Black started, and Edwards came out of the pen to pick up a hold.

At the Plate:

  • Albert Almora got things off on the right foot, he went 1-for-4 with a walk, and two runs…. wait, a walk!!?  I like it.
  • Kyle Schwarber gave Smokies fans a glimpse of what he beings to the table, he was 1-for-3 with two walks, a triple, an RBI, and two runs scored.
  • Dan Vogelbach also joined the fun, he was 1-for-3 with a walk, and an RBI in the win.

On the Mound:

  • Corey Black got the start and picked up the win, he worked five innings, giving up one run on four hits, while walking three, and striking out four.
  • C.J. Edwards made his debut out of the pen tonight, and he was okay, he worked 2.1 innings, giving up one run on two hits, while walking two, and striking out two.
  • Hunter Cervenka was tasked with shutting this one done, and that’s exactly what he did, Cervenka worked 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up one hit while striking out two.

Iowa Cubs 4-9 Final (1)

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This was a tough one, the excitement of opening day, and a really good lineup was erased this morning when we found out that Javier Baez‘s sister Noely had passed away, thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Javy.  To the game, the Cubs were able to create some two out magic in the third as they scored four times to take a 4-2 lead, it was short-lived however.  Memphis scored twice in the fifth, and then three times in the seventh en route to a 7-4 victory.

At the plate:

  • Addison Russell got off to a great start tonight, he was 3-for-4 with an RBI, and a run scored.
  • Kris Bryant didn’t hit a dinger, let that sink in, he finished the night 1-for-4 with an RBI, and a stolen base.
  • Junior Lake was productive, he went 1-for-4 with two RBI in the loss.

On the mound:

  • Donn Roach got the start, and found too many Redbird bats, he worked 5.1 innings, giving up four runs on ten hits while walking one, and striking out two.
  • Drake Britton was handed the loss in this one, he worked 1.1 innings, giving up two runs on two hits, while striking out one.
  • Armando Rivero didn’t get much work in this one, he worked a third of an inning, giving up one run on one hit.
  • Gonzalez Germen did some solid work out of the pen, he worked a scoreless inning, he walked one, and struck out one.

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