Cubs new look bullpen makes a bad first impression
The Chicago Cubs’ bullpen is going to have to be better than it was on Saturday for this team to have any chance.
The Chicago Cubs’ front office has taken a lot of heat for not doing much of significance to address the bullpen this past offseason. Instead, they stockpiled a bunch of low-risk arms, hoping that enough would work out that they could put together a decent set of relievers.
Now, I understand that Saturday was only one game, and I don’t want this piece to be an overreaction based on that one game. But after Kyle Hendricks’ tremendous Opening Day start, the bullpen got its first chance on Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers. And they didn’t exactly impress.
Following a less-than-stellar performance from Yu Darvish, three straight Cubs relievers proceeded to give up runs, essentially putting the game out of reach as the Cubs lost to the Milwaukee Brewers, 8-3.
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In the fifth inning, with the Cubs trailing, but the game still well within reach at 3-1, Duane Underwood Jr., whom many of us had high hopes for this year, got the call from David Ross and gave up a home run to Justin Smoak. I don’t fault Ross for using Underwood in that situation; again, the expectation was that he could be a key piece for Ross this year.
Then Brad Wieck came in and inexplicably walked Eric Sogard on four pitches to set up a two-run homer to Christian Yelich. Wieck was also expected to be a key bullpen arm this year, yet that was because he parlayed a decent ten-inning showing late in the year into earning a spot in the bullpen for 2020. Before that, he had been awful for the San Diego Padres.
James Norwood also gave up a run, and though Rex Brothers and Dillon Maples put up scoreless innings late, the damage had already been done. The fact that Ross had to use the still relatively unproven Underwood and Wieck in the team’s first key bullpen situation of 2020 quickly exposed a significant fault in the Cubs’ construction of their 2020 team.
Perhaps with a 162-game schedule, Ross would have had time to find a combination of bullpen arms that works. But with just a 60-game season, there’s little time to figure it out. And figuring it out figures to be one of Ross’ biggest challenges of this season.
Again, I understand that it’s only one game and that things could still turn around. But it needs to happen quickly, as the Cubs can’t afford to have many more bullpen showings like the one we saw on Saturday. Hopefully, Ross and Co. can figure something out and fast.