Chicago Cubs: Brooks Raley
Both players were on the 40-man roster so their losses pave the way for the Cubs to sign pitchers Jason Hammel and James McDonald. Both have been rumored to be joining the Cubs for some time.
Raley, 25, was 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in parts of two seasons with the Cubs while Marshall moves on after the Cubs claimed him in December.
Hammel and McDonald are expected to be with the Cubs when spring training workouts begin on Friday.
The good: Let's start with Gregg. No matter what you thought of him at season's close or his mouthing off about his role in the final weeks, Gregg was a savior in the middle months of the season. He was 12 for 12 in save chances to begin his second stint as a Cub and finished with 33 for the season. Not bad for a guy who was picked up off the scrap heap. His pinpoint control -- especially with his fastball -- was his signature. Juxtaposed against the first few weeks of Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujikawa, Gregg looked even better. Pedro Strop might be the heir apparent for that role as his arm was electric at times after coming over in a mid-season trade with Baltimore. Meanwhile, Rondon improved as the season went on and might be in line for a set-up role. Russell was just OK after a stellar 2012 but remained a mainstay through some tough times. Justin Grimm, Matt Guerrier and Blake Parker all had moments in the second half that could give them a leg up come 2014, if healthy.
The bad: The Cubs went through relievers in 2013 like they've gone through managers over the years. Starting the season with Marmol as the closer was a big mistake. It didn't help when Fujikawa went down with a season-ending injury as the Cubs went on to blow 26 saves. Shawn Camp was predictably ineffective due to his workload the season before and Hisanori Takahashi failed as a second lefty in the pen. Michael Bowden, Kameron Loe, Brooks Raley, Alberto Cabrera and Eduardo Sanchez are among those with ERAs north of 4.30. Even though Rondon came on late he finished with an ERA of 4.77. If not for the expansion of rosters in September, the Cubs would have overused Russell as they had no other competent lefty in the bullpen all season. That's on the front office.
Who's next: Going outside the organization for a reliever or two is a distinct possibility but there's a good chance the Cubs will also look from within to fill some roles. It's doubtful Gregg will be back which means Strop could be the man to close games with Fujikawa, if healthy, helping out. Rondon, Russell and Parker should have jobs, if none are moved, along with Carlos Villanueva, assuming he's not starting. Another left-hander could be essential as the appearances start to pile up for Russell. Raley or Zach Rosscup will have to show they are ready for prime time.
2014 outlook: When you're in the cellar there's only one way to go: up. The Cubs' bullpen ranked 25th in baseball in ERA (4.04) in 2013 and blew those 26 saves, second worst in the National League. Better decisions out of spring training are needed with another veteran arm or two to solidify things. By year's end the 'pen wasn't bad so picking up where they left off won't be the worst thing. If Strop becomes a legitimate closer, 2014 might be deemed a success for that alone.
RHP Justin Grimm, LHP Brooks Raley and catcher J.C. Boscan were recalled from Class AAA Iowa. LHP Zach Rosscup was selected from Iowa and added to the 40-man roster.
OF Dave Sappelt was designated for assignment.
Grimm was a starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers earlier in the season. He came to the Cubs in the July 22 trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas. Grimm was 7-7 with a 6.37 ERA with the Rangers.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum has no immediate plans to start Grimm this month.
“It will be nice to have three lefties in the bullpen,” said Sveum, who has had just James Russell as his sole left-handed reliever for three months. “We have seen Railey, so it will be nice to see Rosscup, and Grimm, in action.”
All three call-up pitchers will be in the bullpen, according to Sveum.
Boscan will back up Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro.
Sappelt was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds with LHP Travis Wood for LHP Sean Marshall in December 2011.
Meanwhile, the Cubs are unsure as to how they will use Scott Baker, who has been recovering from a strained forearm he incurred in spring training. Baker threw 80 pitches on Monday evening for Class A Kane County.
“I feel pretty good,” Baker said. “As normal as I can for sure. No one has told me either way as to how I will be used. I understand there are guys who have come over in trades. There are a lot of guys here with a limited amount of innings to throw. I get it. I get why they would say that.
“Of course, I do want to start, whether it is here or there [minors] or anywhere,” he said. “That is what I have always done. I really haven’t had a lot of experience doing anything else, and I enjoy starting.”
Baker signed a one-year free-agent deal with Chicago in November 2012. He has not pitched in a major league game since April 2012, when a torn elbow ligament led to Tommy John surgery.
How it happened: Starlin Castro hit his first home run in exactly a month to give the Cubs their first lead of the day in the sixth inning, and it would hold up as five relievers helped shut down the Phillies over the final five innings of the game. The Cubs trailed three times but fought back with single runs in the second, third and fifth innings before Castro’s winning homer. Cole Gillespie had a hit and sacrifice fly to drive in two runs, while Welington Castillo’s base knock in the third inning was one of three times the Cubs tied the game before taking the lead for good. Kevin Frandsen homered for the Phillies, who also got RBI hits from Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young. The teams played sloppy early, but the Cubs settled down as Carlos Villanueva, James Russell, Blake Parker, Pedro Strop and Kevin Gregg came on in relief of Chris Rusin to secure the win. Combined, they gave up two hits.
What it means: Before the game, manager Dale Sveum was lamenting the fact the Cubs had blown so many leads this season -- especially at home.
Maybe the bullpen heard his words, because it came up big.
Sveum used four different pitchers to retire four consecutive batters in the seventh and eighth innings. The strategy worked, as Russell took care of lefty Chase Utley, and Sveum's right-handed relievers did the same to the right-handed Phillies. For one of the few times this season, the Cubs grinded out a home win.
Outside the box: The Cubs will get some reinforcements as rosters expand on Sunday, but only a couple of players are sure things to be called up right now.
Ryan Sweeney will be activated from the disabled list and Luis Valbuena shouldn’t be far behind him. Expect Brooks Raley to join Russell in the bullpen as another lefty option, but Sveum said the final call-ups haven’t been determined yet. Don’t expect an influx of players, as several from Triple-A Iowa are already here. Third baseman Mike Olt would be an interesting option, but he’s struggled for much of this season.
What’s next: The rubber game of the series takes place on Sunday when Jake Arrieta (2-3, 5.91 ERA) takes on Kyle Kendrick (10-11, 4.40).
The hard-throwing Rodriguez was available out of the bullpen Friday night for the opener of a three-game series against the New York Mets. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he planned to use the right-hander in a middle relief role at first and the team hopes to build up his endurance because he may be needed to pitch two innings at a time.
The 26-year-old was obtained Tuesday from Washington for minor league pitcher Ian Dickson after going 0-1 with 4.00 ERA in 17 appearances covering 18 innings this season. He struck out 11 and walked 16.
Raley was 5-4 with a 4.92 ERA at Iowa this season. He had his first major league experience in 2012. Raley was called up in August of last season and was 1-2 with an 8.14 ERA.
Putnam, who underwent an MRI on Wednesday, was 0-0 with an 18.90 ERA in five relief appearances before getting injured. The Cubs will eventually put Henry Rodriguez in the bullpen. Rodriguez has 72 hours to report to the Cubs. He was traded to Chicago Tuesday from Washington.
“Those guys got to learn how to pitch at this level,” Sveum said of rookies such as Raley. “You can’t just … throw a 3-0 pitch, an 0-0 pitch and think you’re gonna get away with it right down the middle. It’s gotta be a quality pitch in the big leagues all the time. These guys are the best hitters in the world. These are things we’re talking about with development.”
Raley allowed two home runs in the tough outing and brought his season total to seven home runs allowed in 24 1/3 innings while ballooning his ERA to 8.14. Though he wasn’t happy with his performance, Raley, whose outing on Thursday was his last of the season due to an innings limit, still took some positives from his season.
"Today will be it for Raley," manager Dale Sveum said. "(We put an) innings (limit) on him going into the season. They’ll be up after today. Unfortunately we’ll have to shut him down after today."
Counting his time in the minors, Raley has tossed 151 innings on the year coming into Thursday’s contest. According to Sveum, rookie Chris Rusin will take Raley’s spot in the rotation the rest of the season.
Raley is 1-2 with a 6.64 ERA in four starts (20 1/3 innings) with the Cubs.
The Cubs had been manipulating the roster for a couple of weeks, prior to last weekend’s doubleheader at Cincinnati. Raley was sent down in advance of the makeup game at Cincinnati, then recalled for the doubleheader on a roster exemption and then sent back down.
The Cubs were essentially able to get extra relief help for the bullpen all while Raley never missed a start.
Rusin was solid in his major-league debut this week at Milwaukee, giving up just one hit over five innings. That one hit was an infield single that deflected off his foot.
But with rosters set to expand in a week, Rusin was sent back to Iowa where he could get one more start before returning.
“He can make the ball do a lot of things,” manager Dale Sveum said of Rusin. “He has a plus changeup, keeps the ball down and you’d like to see him in another environment where it isn’t his first start too where all the jitters are gone.
“He’ll admit that his command wasn’t the greatest (against the Brewers) but he battled back into counts and made the pitches and kept the ball on the ground when he had to. But he’s definitely a guy you want to see more of.”
When all is said and done, the Cubs will have managed to send down Brooks Raley twice while not having him miss a single start. He was first sent down last week and then brought up Saturday. After Saturday’s game he was sent back down with the intention of bringing him back for his next start.
Saturday’s doubleheader was scheduled after a May 1 game at Cincinnati was rained out.
The Cubs sent Raley down last week, knowing they would just be able to recall him on Saturday. Michael Bowden was added to bolster the bullpen.
After Saturday’s doubleheader, the Cubs sent down Raley once again. By the time he is needed to make his next start, his 10 days will have expired from the first time he was sent down.
It’s possible that with all this Cubs maneuvering, the 26-man rule will be reevaluated at some point down the road.
Obviously being 25 games under .500 is nothing to cheer about, but a pair of young Cubs made their presence known, giving each of them a memory for a lifetime.
Brett Jackson will always remember that his first career home run was launched toward the banks of the Ohio River, while pitcher Brooks Raley can savor the fact that Great American Ball Park will be the home to not only his first career victory, but also his first career hit.
“That was nice that Brett kind of got us going there really,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That was nice and Raley kept us in the game and did a nice job. I think he only gave up one hit through four (innings). He did a nice job and it’s nice that a guy can get ground balls and balls off the end of the bat with his sinker.”
Raley gave up four runs on five hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings and had a number of game mementos from this one stashed away in his locker after the game.
“You always hear the first one isn’t (easy) and obviously I’m fired up,” Raley said. “The first one is definitely a tough one to get out of the way. We played great today. We had some really clutch hits.”
Getting wins is what Raley is paid to do, but getting that first hit on a single up the middle might have inspired a bigger smile from the left-hander.
“I told the coaching staff I can hit a little bit,” Raley said. “They kind of tested me out. After I got the hit (third-base coach) Pat (Listach) came by and said, ‘Maybe you can hit a little bit.’ Then I went and lined out in the next one and he came over and gave me a hand shake.”
Jackson’s hitting is more of a focus for the Cubs. The left-handed hitter struck out three more times in Game 2, but the Cubs managed to see progress.
“Things are getting a little bit better,” Sveum said. “We still have to get some things ironed out but you see that it looks like even though he ended up with three more strikeouts it’s just better at-bats. Everything looks better right now.”
Jackson certainly isn’t short on confidence, especially after hitting his first home run.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Jackson said. “I think today was the best I’ve felt at the plate despite the strikeouts. Obviously the home runs give confidence but I let it loose a little bit today. Not to say I was holding back before but I’ve been working tirelessly on some stuff. New stuff can be a challenge to put into a game but today I really felt good and let the swing go.”
In the process, the Cubs appeared to take full advantage of a new rule that allows teams to bring up a 26th player for doubleheaders that are scheduled well in advance. The Cubs and Reds are making up a game that was rained out on May 1.
On Monday the Cubs optioned Raley back to Iowa knowing they would bring him back up for his next scheduled start. By making the roster move when they did they were able to bolster the bullpen by adding Michael Bowden, who pitched two scoreless innings Friday.
Under normal circumstances Raley wouldn’t be able to return so quickly, but the new 26-man doubleheader rule left no stipulation that he couldn’t be brought back up in five days.
After Saturday’s doubleheader is completed, Raley is expected to remain on the roster and a reliever likely will be sent down.
Left-hander Brooks Raley was optioned back to Triple-A Iowa while right-hander Michael Bowden had his contract selected.
Since the Cubs will need Raley again to start one of the games in Saturday’s day-night doubleheader at Cincinnati, he is expected to be recalled then. Starting this season, teams can have a 26-man roster for doubleheaders and Raley is expected to be that addition with a reliever expected to be sent back down before Sunday’s game.
Camp made his major-league leading 58th appearance in Sunday’s game against the Reds. Russell is tied for third in all of baseball with 56 appearances.
“Their appearances have been full innings too,” manager Dale Sveum. “It’s not a situation where they come in for one hitter for the most part. They’ve gotten their three outs all year long in those appearances. We really have to be careful with them pitching when we’re behind in games and stuff like that now.”
Among relievers, Camp is sixth in the National league with 58 innnings, while Russell is tied for 13th with 52 2/3 innings.
Bowden, who was acquired from the Red Sox on April 21 for Marlon Byrd, is making his second big league appearance with the Cubs this season. He had a 6.39 ERA in 12 major league appearances with the Red Sox and Cubs earlier this season.
He was much improved at Triple-A Iowa, though, posting a 2.76 ERA in 23 relief appearances. The Aurora, Ill., native did not allow a run in his four August appearances, limiting opponents to a .043 batting average over 7 1/3 innings.
To get Bowden back on the 40-man roster, Ian Stewart was placed on the 60-day disabled list. Stewart had surgery on his left wrist July 10 and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
To make room for Bowden on the 40-man roster, Ian Stewart was shifted to the 60-day disabled list.
Bowden went 3-2 with two saves and a 2.76 ERA in 23 relief appearances for Iowa. He had a 6.39 ERA with the Cubs and Red Sox before being optioned on June 1.
Raley is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA with the Cubs this season.
Yet for the first 4 1/3 innings Sunday Raley was indeed perfect, retiring 13 consecutive batters until he was ultimately pushed around a bit in the fifth inning. Jay Bruce hit a two-run home run for the Reds in the fifth and Ryan Ludwick followed with a solo shot in the sixth inning as the Cubs fell 5-0.
“Obviously the five days between starts gave me a chance to watch the older guys and see what they do and you try to learn from it,” Raley said. “I guess the biggest thing I saw from everybody else starting was throwing strike one and getting ahead of the count and keeping the ball down.”
Raley was then asked to confirm that there really are older guys here.
“Yeah, not many, but watching (Jeff Samardzija throw well and (Chris Volstad and (Travis Wood, when you keep the ball down, good things happen,” he said.
Surprisingly, pitching hasn’t been the problem since Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster were traded and Matt Garza was placed on the disabled list. Outside of a few games over the past two weeks, the rotation has done its best to hold its own.
Raley will now be pointed toward a third start Saturday and will have to face the Reds all over again in Cincinnati.
“He had a couple of fly balls that went out that were not even hit that good,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He did a great job. He kept the ball down with his movement, had great command and a lot more life on his ball today. He did far and above what we needed out of him. He did a great job as well as the rest of the bullpen. They were efficient and did a great job.”
Raley lived on the outside part of the plate against right-hitters, saying that approach has brought him the most success. Just getting more experience should take him even further.
“I was just watching so many people keep the ball down in the zone across the whole plate really,” Raley said. “When you can get ahead in the count their batting averages go down. That’s been a point to get across.”