Cubs manager Lou Piniella and pitching Larry Rothschild have been talking lately
about the stress and strain Cubs relievers are under this month, what with the Cubs playing twenty days in a row, the "Dog Days" of August, and the pressures of a pennant race.
Both Cousin Larry and Uncle Lou have mentioned that on September 1st, bullpen reinforcements can be added, because that's when the rosters can be expanded from 25 to 40 players. And that's true. They are correct. But actually, they really don't have to wait that long...
Because of Carlos Zambrano's 43-pitch rain-shortened outing on Sunday night, "Z"'s next start has been moved up a day, to Thursday afternoon at San Francisco. And Sean Marshall
's next outing has been pushed back a day, where he will be pitching Friday night at Arizona instead of Thursday afternoon at SF.
So here's what the Cubs should do (and I'm sure they've already thought of this):
No matter how Marshall pitches on Friday night (even if he throws a perfect game), the Cubs should option him to the minors on Saturday and recall Rocky Cherry
from Iowa. (Of the Cubs relievers on optional assignment to the minors, Cherry has been the most-effective lately, going 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K over his last seven outings).
It doesn't really matter whether Marshall is optioned to Peoria, Daytona, Tennessee, Iowa, or Siberia, though, because he actually wouldn't go anywhere. He would just remain with the Cubs and get his normal pre-game bullpen side sessions in, just as he would if he had not been optioned out.
See, with the off-day on Monday, the Cubs can skip Marshall's turn next week (which should have been Thursday 8/30 vs MIL), because after this Friday, a 5th starter won't be needed again until Saturday 9/1 vs HOU.
And the "ten-day rule" (where players on optional assignment to the minors must remain in the minors for at least ten days, unless they are recalled to replace a player on the 25-man roster who is placed on the DL) is suspended as of September 1st (it is possible to option a player to the minors on August 31st, and then recall him the very next day).
So even though Marshall will have spent only seven days on optional assignment, he can be recalled on September 1st and start the game that day versus the Astros at Wrigley Field (and that would have been his next scheduled start anyway).
The only downside would be that Marshall would not be on the 25-man roster as of midnight August 31st, and thus normally would not be eligible for the Cubs post-season roster. However, because Mark Prior, Angel Guzman, and Roberto Novoa are on the 60-day DL, any or all of the three can be replaced on the post-season roster by any other pitcher in the organization as of 8/31, so Marshall could be added to the Cubs post-season roster even if he is not on the 25-man roster on August 31st.
So if they don't want to wait until September 1st to add an extra arm to the bullpen, the Cubs could do it as early as this Saturday! (But they probably won't...)