With an injury-riddled back end of the bullpen, the Chicago Cubs are going to have to rely on depth to get it done in close games. This includes guys that do not have a whole lot of experience in these situations.
Bad news was confirmed Friday that Pedro Strop will miss the remainder of the regular season due to a hamstring injury. With Strop out and closer Brandon Morrow‘s return being still far from certain (despite recent optimism), there is obviously a lot of shifting to be done.
Ideal closer roles as mentioned in a previous article, could fall on the arms of Justin Wilson or Steve Cishek. While it still may be that way for the most part, it clearly will not be that way every game. Fans saw veteran Jorge De La Rosa get his first career save against the Reds Friday. His first 425 games before Friday’s, he never converted a save in his career.
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With a lot of their September call-ups not having a lot of experience, and guys like Cishek, Wilson and Carl Edwards Jr. needing some days to rest, veterans like De La Rosa and Jaime Garcia will be called upon.
From starters, to important bullpen arms.
De La Rosa and Garcia are two veteran pitchers that have been primarily starters in their career. From 2006-2016, De La Rosa started 236 out of the 263 games he started. 2017 he was strictly a reliever in Arizona, so he does have some reliever experience, but is still only had one save opportunity. After his first save Friday, he could be in more vital situations. So far he has a 1.59 ERA with the Cubs – all as a reliever.
Garcia has only two games under his belt as a Cubs. His start in Washington D.C. went incredibly poorly, but he had an impressive 1-2-3 inning Friday. Note that he faced all lefties in that game, considering his splits against them are very good. Being used potentially as a LOOGY could be important. From his full season in 2010 through this year he has started in 187 of his 202 appearances, which is roughly 93 percent of his games. This was his first year seeing more than two relief appearances since seeing 16 innings of MLB action in 2008.
In total the two pitchers have 429 starts between them. Now they will both be important pen pieces. This is nothing new to baseball, contending teams often find former veteran pitchers who have been starters to fill in bullpen roles. Cubs have done it over the past several years with the likes of Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richard. It is a new batch of guys like that to hopefully help this team into the playoffs and beyond.