After a solid run over the first two weeks of the new season, the Chicago Cubs bullpen has been a little shaky over the last two series’ – specifically against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
While most of Joe Maddon‘s relievers have performed well whenever they’ve been called upon, there are a couple who haven’t lived up to expectations. For example, veteran Phil Coke currently holds a 5.79 ERA in his first year with the Cubs but has given up only three runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings and eight appearances.
More from Chicago Cubs News
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
- Cubs might start to limit Justin Steele’s workload soon
Then you have former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte who jumped ship over the off-season who gave up a combined five earned runs in back-to-back appearances against the San Diego Padres and the Pirates.
Prior to those outings, Motte was absolutely perfect in his first five outings with the Cubs as he held opposing hitters to just two hits with four strikeouts and one hold in five shutout appearances.
But there’s one man, in particular, that has struggled the most out of everyone else and that man, as you could tell by the headline of this article, is Brian Schlitter. Schlitter (0-2, 9.53 ERA) was handed his second loss of the season after Pittsburgh rallied from a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 by hanging a three-spot in the bottom of the sixth, then adding another insurance run in the seventh to extend their lead.
In 5 2/3 innings of work, Schlitter has given up six earned runs on 10 hits (two home runs) with a 5/2 K/BB ratio. He was called up Apr. 10 after Justin Grimm was placed on the disabled list with forearm inflammation, but may not be with the big league club for much longer if he doesn’t show improvement.
Now when or if he does find himself being demoted, who could end up taking his place if it isn’t Grimm himself? Well, there are several candidates who have performed well at the Triple-A level as Blake Parker, Joe Ortiz, and James Russell could become options over the next few weeks.
Russell (0-0, 0.00 ERA) was recently re-signed by the Cubs after he was released from the Atlanta Braves. Before he was dealt, Russell made 44 appearances for the Cubs, posting a 3.51 ERA, 26/16 K/BB ratio, with one save and a 0-2 record in 33 1/3 frames.
He was acquired by the Braves last season in a package that featured Emilio Bonifacio heading to Atlanta in exchange for 21-year-old catcher Victor Caratini, who finished the 2014 campaign with the Kane County Cougars.
In three appearances with the Iowa Cubs, Russell has been absolutely perfect, allowing just one hit in 4 1/3 innings of work with five strikeouts, zero walks, and a save under his belt.
Parker (0-0, 2.73 ERA) is another familiar face who has spent time with the big league club last season, posting a 5.14 ERA in 18 games. So far in 2015, Parker has limited opposing teams to just one hit, one earned run while walking four and striking out just one in 3 1/3 innings. Unlike James Russell, Parker is on the 40-man roster but is currently spending time on the I-Cubs 7-day disabled list.
Which could possibly result in the Cubs selecting Ortiz, who is also on the 40-man roster and is active. Ortiz was claimed by the Cubs last October after spending most of the 2014 season on the disabled list and in the minors as a member of the Texas Rangers organization.
He made 32 appearances in his major league debut with the Rangers after cracking the Opening Day roster to kick-off 2013. In those 32 games, Ortiz (0-0, 2.73 ERA) has given up 21 earned runs on 46 hits including five home runs, 27/10 K/BB ratio with a 2-2 record and 4.23 ERA.
This season with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, Ortiz has given up only two earned runs on five hits with one strikeout in seven innings of work.
Although Russell and Paker both have experience in Chicago, the 24-year-old southpaw from Caracas, Venezuela could end up being their best option without having to stress the extra roster move since he’s already on the 40-man roster.