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Chicago Cubs: Bullpen is strong but flawed

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Can the Cubs iron out bullpen flaws?

If the Chicago Cubs could learn anything from last year’s Kansas City Royals team it was that if you have a strong or better yet a dominant back-end of the bullpen – you’ll win a lot of games and go far into the post season. Having two setup men to work in front of your closer is a luxury not many teams have but one every team strives for.

Chicago posesses a strong closer with Hector Rondon and a very good setup man in Pedro Strop but after them remains unknown options.  

Jason Motte very well could be on the comeback trail from missing the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery. He pitched only 29 innings last year with St. Louis registering a 1-0 record with a 4.68 ERA – a far cry from his 2012 season where he led the National League in saves with 42.

The Cubs signed him to a one-year deal and he has a lot to prove and I’m sure if for whatever reason Rondon started to struggle, Joe Maddon would be looking to Motte to resume the role he once had.

The back-end of the pen I don’t see as a problem – I think they are strong even without another sure arm to help Strop and Rondon. The middle relief is what worries me the most. Phil Coke I still think is a good signing even after a rough outing on Saturday versus the Padres.

Zac Rosscup worries me because of the performance he showed last season – until I see differently I will not change that opinion. Neil Ramirez will be a question mark until he comes back and proves he’s healthy again and stays that way. Brian Schlitter is by far the one who I have the least amount of faith in.

Even with the questionable non-strike three call against San Diego on Friday – that second pitch had home run written all over it.  It was a bad pitch and unfortunately he makes far too many of those.

James Russell could come up soon to help the middle of the pen.  His numbers while with the Cubs were always solid and I have faith that he could do this for the team again.  C.J. Edwards may not be ready yet but if the Cubs are a team in the running when September comes – Edwards could become an asset at the back-end of the bullpen. 

Tsuyoshi Wada could aid the bullpen with his return – assuming he returns to the majors. He and Edwin Jackson will likely compete for long relief duties.

When the trading deadline comes, I wonder if Motte continues to throw as well as he has thus far will become a hot commodity for teams in need of a closer.  I wonder that about Coke as well for a team who needs a veteran reliever. I know the Chicago Cubs aren’t going to be sellers like the previous years but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to listen to calls and I’d be surprised to see Motte still a Cub after July.

I know the Chicago Cubs aren’t going to be sellers like the previous years but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to listen to calls and I’d be surprised to see Motte still a Cub after July. Like everything, we question now we can answer with the simple response of how early in the season it is and that is fair.  But it is always best to keep track of what you have that is working and what isn’t.

The bullpen has been very good and I’m not saying they won’t continue to be, but there are some arms that I don’t see being long-term solutions for a contending team.

Next: Trading blows, Cubs rally to top Padres in 11 innings

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