Injuries often lead to the spotlight shining on a player who is not quite ready for its intensity. That was the case on Sunday night for the Chicago Cubs, as manager Mike Quade was forced to go to young reliever Chris Carpenter in a role injured pitcher Kerry Wood would normally have filled.
With two men on and nobody out in the eighth inning, Quade pulled Sean Marshall and brought Carpenter in to face New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher. Carpenter quickly fell behind 2-0 and Swisher took advantage of the favorable count, hitting the next pitch into the right field bleachers. The home run untied the game, giving the Yankees a three-run lead. The Bronx Bombers proceeded to tack on three more runs in the ninth to secure a 10-4 victory.
Quade admitted his hands were tied in the situation with Wood injured and Jeff Samardzija coming off a 40-pitch outing on Saturday.
“As we’ve said all along, with some of the issues we’ve had here injury-wise, it is an opportunity,” Quade said. “Doesn’t mean that kids are ready to compete at a high level yet, but some of these guys we’re talking about are going to [in the future] and they’re going to get chances. So, we have to piece together those innings to get to Marmol.”
Quade said he didn’t think about keeping Marshall in to face the switch-hitting Swisher because he wanted to turn Swisher around and have him hit as a lefty. Swisher is hitting .173 from the left side of the plate as opposed to .348 as a righty in 2011.
Quade also emphasized that he wanted to limit Marshall’s pitch count (Marshall combined to throw 47 pitches on Thursday and Friday), because he didn’t want Marshall unavailable against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
“I told Marsh, I’m looking for five hitters from you, then one of the kids is going to have to pick it up,” Quade said. “The question is, do you put one of the kids in first or let Marshall go through that tough part of the lineup and he’s good at it. Come hell or high water, Carpenter was going to get Swisher, it worked out numbers wise, but it didn’t work out results wise.”
Marshall retired Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira in order to get through the seventh, but allowed singles to both Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano to start off the eighth. Carpenter said despite the bad results, he would do his best to learn from the situation.
“You never want to just look at the negatives, you want to take some positive out of everything,” Carpenter said. “Trust me, nobody felt worse than I did giving up a home run in that situation. But I’m gonna try and take some positives out of it and hopefully (the next time) I’ll come out and do my job.”
One batter after Swisher, Quade came out to get Carpenter and stood on the mound for a while talking to his young reliever.
“He just told me to keep trusting in my stuff every time you go out there, adjust, and get better every time you go out,” Carpenter said. “Use today as a stepping stone or learning curve, whatever you want to call it. Just don’t get down on yourself and stay positive out there.”
Carpenter was converted to a full-time reliever this year after he lit up the Arizona Fall League this past November in the same role. Quade said he believed that there is a lot of young talent on this Cubs roster and Carpenter is a part of that. Scouts raved about Carpenter’s AFL performance, especially his 100-plus mph fastball and said he had the potential to be a dominant reliever.
“I told him that he’s gonna be on this mound celebrating some day and I believe that, but it’s going to take time,” Quade said. “(He needs to work on) the development of his breaking ball and his command. But that’s another good power arm to have.”
Unfortunately for Carpenter and the Cubs, those celebrations are going to have to wait at least another day.