Angel's in the Bullpen
Angel Guzman (September '07 TJS) had what was likely his final rehab outing last night at Iowa, pitching the 8th & 9th in a GF non-save situation in an I-Cubs victory, throwing two shutout inings (31 pitches - 23 strikes). With his minor league rehab going well, I fully expect the Cubs to reactivate Guzman from the 60-day DL on Monday when the MLB active rosters expand to 40.
So far in four games at AAA, Gooz has thrown nine innings, allowing one run on seven hits and three walks, while striking out 12. He has not allowed a HR in any of his seven rehab outings (17 IP) over the past month at Daytona, Tennessee, and Iowa.
Guzman still has yet to throw two days in a row (he threw on two days rest last night), so until he can get to the point where he can throw at least every-other day (if not two or three days days in a row), I doubt that he will be a candidate as a late-inning reliever for the post-season roster. And he isn;t throwing enough pitches per outing to be considered as a starter, either. But at least the Cubs will have a month to see if they can get Guzman into the "frequent flyer" program.
However, even if he can throw only two or three times a week and even if he might need a bit more time to get loose than what you might prefer in your average MLB reliever, Gooz could still help the Cubs the last month of the regular season when he does pitch, as long as he gets sufficient time to get loose.
I saw Guzman throw quite a bit (both "live" BP and "sim" games) at Fitch Park April-July, and he consistently hit 94 with his fastball. I talked to him after several of his outings, and he said his arm felt great.
Because he didn't throw many curve balls or change-ups while he was at Fitch, getting to the point where he has the confidence to throw all of his pitches (and throw them for strikes) was something he needed to do while on his minor league rehab. He had problems with his command the first couple of months rehabbing at Fitch, but he got that problem resolved before he left town.
Jon Lieber (on the 15-day DL with a sore foot) threw a two-inning shutout relief rehab stint for Peoria on Thursday, so he will also likely be reactivated on Monday. While Lieber isn't ever going to be confused with Ryan Dempster or Rich Harden, Carlos Marmol or Kerry Wood, he will provide the Cubs with another experienced arm in the bullpen to help pick up the slack and throw a couple or three innings every now & then in a blow-out or extra-inning game.
And if the Cubs are able to clinch early enough to adjust their rotation for the post-season, Lieber could get a spot start the last week of September against one of the contenders the Cubs will be facing at the end of the regular season. There might be some grumbling among N. L. clubs competing for a playoff spot with the team facing Lieber, but the Cubs can always claim that Lieber is in their plans for the post-season (even if he really isn't).
The Cubs are also expected to recall 1B-LHPH Micah Hoffpauir, OF Felix Pie, and RHPs Kevin Hart and Michael Wuertz from Iowa sometime in September, and also add a third catcher (Koyie Hill) to their active roster.
While we know Piniella doesn't want an "overly-crowded" clubhouse in September, I still wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs also might consider bringing up a veteran guy with MLB experience like 1B-OF-RHPH Jason Dubois, OF-PR Andres Torres, SS Andres Blanco, and/or RHRP Hector Carrasco, or perhaps rubber-armed swingman RHP Randy Wells (who can be a minor league FA post-2008 if he isn't added to the Cubs 40-man roster) after Iowa's season is over. This would give the Cubs additional potential replacements for the post-season in case of injury. (Once a player goes home at the end of the minor league season, it's hard to get him back active again if an injury replacement is needed during the NLDS, NLCS, or WS in October).
If the Cubs need additional slots on their 40-man roster in September, RHP Chad Fox (sore elbow) could easily be transferred to the 60-day DL, or Adam Harben (11/2006 TJS rehab) and/or Rich Hill (on the Iowa DL with a back problem) could be recalled from their minor league optional assignments and be placed on the 60-day DL (and if the Cubs do that no later than 8/31, it would also give the Cubs an additional roster exemption or two beyond the one provided by having Chad Fox on the DL that they could use in the post-season to add both a Hoffpauir and a Wuertz or a Hart to their NLDS roster). Also, LHP Carmen Pignatiello (having a terrible year at Iowa) and/ or Daytona RHP Billy Petrick (who was placed on the Suspended List while on the DL at Daytona with "shoulder weakness") could get outrighted (both could be minor league free-agents post-2008 if they are dropped from the 40) . .
While the Iowa Cubs will be playing in the PCL playoffs starting next Wednesday, the Cubs don't have to wait until Iowa's season is over before they can bring up reinforcements. If they want to add Pie, Hoffpauir, K. Hill, Hart, and/or Wuertz immediately on 9/1, the Cubs could promote the likes of CF Sam Fuld, 1B-OF Jake Fox, and catcher Chris Robinson, and RHPs Gregory Reinhard, Dumas Garcia, and or Mark Holliman from AA Tennessee (eliminated a while ago from Southern League playoff contention) to Iowa to fill the open roster slots. (Tennessee's regular season ends on Monday, so the replacements could easily report to Iowa by the start of the PCL playoffs on Wednesday).
Fuld, Fox, Reinhard, Garcia, and Holliman all spent time at AAA in 2008 and Robinson played for Team Canada in the Beijing Olympics, so it's not like the Cubs would be throwing a bunch of young inexperienced guys into the AAA playoff fire. It also wouldn't be too unsual for guys like OF Tyler Colvin, Closer Jose Ceda, LHRP Casey Lambert, or RHRP Rocky Roquet to get a late-season promotion to the next level so that they can get a chance to partake in a playoff atmosphere. AA 2B Nate Spears has already been promoted to Iowa, replacing IF-OF Bobby Scales (on the DL with a sprained ankle).