While the 2014 edition of the Chicago Cubs will probably be lucky to win 70 games, there have been some encouraging developments at the big league level. One such positive can be found currently in the bullpen, where a number of Cubs’ relievers have been getting the job done of late.
The Cubs are in the midst of an impressive run out of the bullpen. A collection of Cubs’ relievers have pitched 14 consecutive scoreless innings over the previous six games. Ironically, the last Cubs’ reliever to be scored upon was former closer Jose Veras, who gave up two earned runs in one inning of work against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Apr. 24 at Wrigley Field before being mercifully placed on the disabled list.
A number of relievers have contributed to the cause, including left-hander Wesley Wright, who is currently sporting an ERA of 1.93. In addition, there are several young right-handed power arms who could in theory become long-term contributors to the Cubs’ bullpen.
Neil Ramirez, who was acquired from the Texas Rangers in the potentially lucrative Matt Garza trade last season, has been solid in limited work since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Apr. 24 and appears to have the stuff and the makeup to become a successful high-leverage, late-inning reliever for the Cubs.
Another promising young reliever is Justin Grimm, who also came over from the Rangers in the very same Garza deal. Grimm has been lights out so far, with an ERA of 0.79 and 13 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. Both Ramirez and Grimm appear to be well-suited for relief work.
Of course, this current scoreless innings streak from the bullpen has not included one save opportunity, which will likely remain relatively scarce as the season continues. However, it appears that Hector Rondon is next in line to pitch the ninth inning for the Cubs. Rondon has been very good in the early part of 2014 and will hopefully provide some much-needed stability at the back end of the bullpen.
The Cubs do need to find a long-term closer, and fortunately there appears to be a wealth of internal options, including Rondon, Grimm, Armando Rivero and Pedro Strop. In a best case scenario for the Cubs, Arodys Vizcaino will be able to stay healthy as a full-time reliever and lock down the closer role for the Cubs beginning next season. By all accounts, Vizcaino has flashed some dynamic stuff in the minors and seems to have his velocity back.
Regardless of which pitcher eventually settles into the closer role, this is a good season to experiment with multiple options as the Cubs will not be in contention this year. However, next season will hopefully be a different story.