Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring Training Preview: The Bullpen

We discussed the rotation earlier in the week, so now it's time to jump back into it by breaking down the state of the Cubs' bullpen.

Carlos Marmol
This year, Marmol knows his role. He doesn't have to try to beat anyone out for the closer's job in camp, as it is finally all his. This could work either way. Perhaps Carlos will be able to use the time in Spring Training to relax and prepare for the season rather than when a job. But depending on one guys without much of a plan B for the 9th inning may not be such a good thing. Marmol's has been like a roller coaster since he started his Cub career in 2006. There's not question that he has great stuff, with an electric breaking ball and a good fastball, but command of his pitchers could be an issue. Marmol has been know for putting gives on base via the base on balls and hit by pitch, so Cubs fans could be doing a lot of sweating during the 9th this year. If the Cubs are going to return to their title of top dog in the Central, the key very well could be this man's performance closing games.
Prediction: Lock to make the roster as the closer

John Grabow
Earlier in the offseason, the Cubs feel like they made a big move that got little attention when they locked up Grabow. Grabow is a left handed late inning pitcher who came over from the Pirates along with Tom Gorzelanny in the deal that sent Kevin Hart and Jose Ascaino the other way last July. He pitched well in middle relief down the stretch last season, and will strive to continue success in the late innings. Grabow is a key to the bullpen because he is one of the only veteran arms to lead the way. The Cubs would still like to sign one more late inning guy to help out from the right side.
Prediction: Lock to make the roster as a reliever

Angel Guzman
Guzman has not thrown the baseball yet in camp after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee two weeks ago. He tore his meniscus during a workout in Venezuela last month. Jim Hendry says that Angel will be a couple of weeks behind the other pitchers, but will be ready to go for the start of Spring Training. The question with Guzman has never been a matter of stuff, it's a matter of staying healthy. He managed to still healthy most of 2009 with just one stint on the DL and a few minor injuries here and there. The one thing the is still unchecked on Hendy's offseason wish-list is a right handed setup man. Guzman could serve in this role for the Cubs if he is indeed ready to go before Opening Day.
Prediction: Will make the roster as a reliever

Jeff Stevens
This young right handed pitcher has already taken advantage of the experience in the organization, working with Greg Maddux at Fitch Park. Stevens pitched well last spring, and this year has his sites set on winning a spot in the Cubs bullpen. Jeff came to the Cubs in the unpopular trade among fans that shipped Mark DeRosa to Cleveland. Spent some time with the big league team during the season, but ended up with an unfairly bloated ERA in a handful of appearances.
Prediction: Will Start the year at AAA Iowa

Jeff Gray
One of three Jeffs on the pitcher staff and four on the 40-man roster, Gray is a new addition to the Cub relief core. He was traded to Chicago this winter in the deal that sent Aaron Miles and Jake Fox to Oakland. Jeff spent some time with the A's big league club last year posting a 3.76 ERA in 24 games. If he makes the roster, Gray will become the first Cub to wear number 34 since Kerry Wood sported in for ten years before his departure via free agency after the 2008 season.
Prediction: Will make the Cubs roster as a reliever

David Patton
After selecting him in the Rule 5 Draft in December of 2008, the Cubs were forced to keep Patton on the roster for all of the 2009 season. Had they sent him to the minors, he would have been returned to the Seattle organization. Apparently, the Cubs saw something they liked in this kid, as they kept him around despite a 6.83 ERA in 20 games. Before last season, David had never played high that Class A. He did spend a lot of time on the DL during the summer months of last year, before finally returning when roster expanded on September 1. Now it's time to find out of the struggle to keep Patton around was worth it. If the Cubs decide that he cannot help the bullpen, he can be sent down to the minors without the organization losing the red-headed prospect.
Prediction: Will star the year at AA Tennessee

Mike Parisi
What is it with the Cubs and these Rule 5 guys? Parisi was this year's selection, and so he must be kept on the big league roster or else he will be returned to St. Louis. Parasi is more experienced than Patton was a year ago, as he has spent a lot of time at AAA and even 12 games in the bigs in 2008. Over those 12 games Mike went 0-4 with a dreadful 8.22 ERA. He has been a starter in the past, but will likely fill a relief role if he pitches well enough in Cactus League play to make the roster. He is coming off of Tomm John surgery in August of 2008.
Prediction: Will be returned to St. Louis

Esmalin Caridad
The young Dominican right hander has electric stuff. Last season, when he got a chance to come up to the Cubs because of a string of injuries, he opened some eyes with a microscopic 1.40 ERA in 14 games. If the Cubs do not add another arm to the mix, Caridad could not only make the club, but also have a major impact. He will have to continue to prove himself in Arizona, as he is not a lock to get a spot on the team because of the crowded mix of relievers.
Prediction: Will make the roster as a reliever

John Gaub
Another arm netted in the DeRosa trade, Gaub had a solid year at AAA in 2009 earning a spot on the 40-man roster. Next on the agenda for Gaub is to try to earn a spot on the 25-man roster. The lefty has yet to make his big league debut. Gaub has talent, but the pitching staff already includes four left handers in Grabow, Marshall, Lilly, and Gorzelanny- at least two of which will be pitching out of the bullpen. Although a spot on the Opening Day roster is unlikely, when there is an injury or someone struggles, Gaub could be the first LHP to get to call up.
Prediction: Will start they year at AAA Iowa

Blake Parker
Although he has little or no chance of starting the year with the Cubs, Parker still has a good arm. He was drafted by the Cubs as a position in 2006, and then was converted to the hill after one year in the organization. He posted a 2.70 ERA last year, splitting the team between Iowa and Tennessee. Parker played for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League this winter.
Prediction: Will start the year at AAA Iowa

Marcos Mateo
Brother of former Cub Juan Mateo, Marcos went 3-6 with a 4.07 ERA in 34 game with Tennessee last year. He came to the organization in 2008, playing for the Reds Class A squad prior to that time. He has quickly worked his was from Peoria to AA over the last two years, and plans to keep moving up that latter. Mateo could find himself in the big leagues within the next year or two.
Prediction: Will start the year at AA

Mitch Atkins
Don't count this 23 year old out of the Cubs bullpen mix just. Although last year was a down year for Mitch (8-12 with a 6.58 ERA at AAA), he did go 8-1 in ten games with the I-Cubs at the end of the '08 season. Atkins will need to bounce back with a good spring. He has been used mostly as a starting pitcher, but perhaps he will be added to the bullpen at some point this season if someone goes down.
Prediction: Will start the year at AAA

Rafael Dolis
This talented young hurler is still a few seasons away from the big leagues. He is on the 40 man roster because the Cubs wanted to protect him from being selected in the Rule V Draft in December. In 2009, Dolis put up a 3.79 ERA at Class A Daytona after missing all of '08 because of Tommy John surgery. Dolis is now back to full health, and will begin to make his climb to the big leagues. He was signed by the Cubs in 2006.
Prediction: Will start the year at Class A Daytona

So here is my prediction for the Cubs full 12 man pitching staff: Dempster, Zambrano, Gorzelanny, Wells, Samardzija, Marshall, Grabow, Guzman, Marmol, Gray, Caridad, and Stevens. DL: Lilly and Silva

We'll start our look at the hitters in a few days!

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