Just hours after I write a piece wondering if Joe Maddon is overworking the Chicago Cubs bullpen, or if it’s just the personnel struggling–he indirectly answers me. It’s the personnel. The Cubs have optioned Brian Schlitter to Triple-A Iowa, while recalling Junior Lake. The move puts the Cubs at 12 pitchers and 13 positional players.
If Maddon was anywhere near concerned he was pushing the pen too hard, they would have made the move to bring up another pitcher. But this makes me think that Maddon has had a plan (why am I not surprised?) with the short outings of the starting staff. He may be looking to stretch them out further, including Jon Lester who was much improved in his last start.
The demotion of Schlitter was writing on the wall for entirely too long. After being recalled to help fill in for injuries, he looked like the guy who was shellacked in the second half of last season, and not the effective guy from earlier in the year. His baseball life in Chicago is being saved as the Cubs don’t have a lot of MLB ready arms to bring up, so he’ll linger in Iowa for the time being.
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For Lake, this is a chance to show what he can do. This team is filling up with younger, high-ceiling players, and guys like himself, Mike Olt and even Javier Baez will need to make the most of every opportunity. We’ve seen him succeed at this level before, but he’ll need to put it all together now and show Maddon that he can be that versatile player (he was originally a shortstop) and possibly fill the void left by Arismendy Alcantara upon his demotion.
The problem of having too many players to fill not enough spots is one that I’ll gladly take, instead of scrounging the waiver wire to find players. Unfortunately, some of these players that I’ve come to like over the past few seasons may be at the end of their rope.