Cub Bullpen Failure Is Not a Surprise
Derrek Lee crushed a two-run double, Aramis Ramirez and Tyler Colvin had two hits a piece (and Colvin also stole a base and scored two runs), and Ryan Dempster threw five innings of shutout ball before tiring in the 6th, as the Cubs and Royals played to a 5-5 tie in Cactus League action at Surprise Stadium this afternoon.
The game was scoreless through the first three innings, before the Cubs broke-through for a run off Royals starter Luke Hochevar in the top of the 4th. Tyler Colvin rapped a hard-hit ground-single to right with one out, stole 2nd base, and then scored on a two-out RBI single to left-center by Aramis Ramirez. (Suffering from a sore right triceps, Ramirez was the Cubs DH today, and he hit the ball hard twice, settling for singles both times).
The Cubs scored two more runs in the 5th off KC LHRP Dusty Hughes, as Ryan Theriot walked and Tyler Colvin hammered another single to right with no outs. Derrek Lee then crushed a long double off the right-centerfield fence to score Theriot and Colvin, giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Ryan Dempster was in mid-season form through the first five innings (80 pitches - 50 strikes), allowing no runs on two hits (a lead-off single in the 1st and a lead-off double in the 3rd) and three walks, while striking out six.
Trying to extend him a bit further, Manager Lou Piniella sent Dempster out to start the bottom of the 6th, but the veteran right-hander did not have much left. He gave up a lead-off triple to Alberto Callaspo, a hard-hit sac-fly to RF to Billy Butler, and a double to Jose Guillen, before being relieved by Carlos Marmol.
For the day, Dempster threw 93 pitches (59 strikes), with a 6/5 GO/FO.
Generally speaking, rotation starters are stretched to about 100 pitches by their next-to-last Spring Training start, and then they are usually cut-back to five innings and 75 pitches in their final start prior to the beginning of the MLB regular season. So with two Cactus League starts remaining, Dempster is probably right where he should be, maybe even a bit further along than normal.
Marmol relieved Dempster with one run in, a runner on 2nd, and one out in the 6th, and proceeded to strike out Jason Kendall with some nasty sliders. But then lefty-hitting Brayan Pena got a first-pitch fastball from the Cub closer and drove it high over the RF fence for a game-tying two-run home run.
Marmol also pitched the 7th, and labored a bit through the inning (23 pitches - 12 strikes), walking one batter and hitting another, while also throwing a wild pitch. But with one out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Marmol got it together and struck out Alberto Callaspo and Billy Butler to end the threat and keep the game tied.
For the day, Marmol worked 1.2 IP, throwing 30 pitches (17 strikes), allowing one run (the HR).
The Cubs took the lead back in the 8th, when Micah Hoffpauir worked a two-out walk off Royals veteran LHRP John Parrish, advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, and scored on a clutch two-out line single to right by Jeff Baker.
But the Royals came right back against the Cubs LHRP John Gaub in the bottom of the frame, tying the score at four as lefty-hitting Mitch Maier laced a lead-off triple into the right-center alley, and (with the infield drawn-in) scored on an RBI line single to CF by Jason Kendall. Gaub did get out of the inning without further damage (1-3 SH, 6-3, 5-3), however, throwing 20 pitches (13 strikes) with a 3/0 GO/FO.
Still facing lefty John Parrish, the Cubs took the lead once again the top of the 9th, as Kevin Millar rapped a lead-off line-drive single to left, and advanced to 2nd base on a picture-perfect 1-3 sacrifice bunt laid down by Darwin Barney. Sam Fuld struck out and Chris Robinson walked, before ex-Royal Andres Blanco ripped an RBI line-drive single into left-center to score score Millar with the go-ahead run.
But the Cubs bullpen gave up the lead one last time in the bottom of the 9th, as RHRP Marcos Mateo entered the game with a chance for the save. But unfortunately Mateo immediately gave up three consecutive hard-hit singles to Chris Getz, Scott Thorman, and Alberto Calaspo to tie the score 5-5, although he did work out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the score tied through nine innings.
Apparently neither team was interested in playing extra innings, as the game was declared a 5-5 tie and the Cubs headed home to Mesa.
With mediocre outings by John Gaub and Marcos Mateo today on the heels of a piss-poor performance by Rule 5 pick Mike Parisi yesterday, the Cubs are running out of in-house bullpen options. At present it would appear that (barring a trade) the Opening Day pen will be (essentially by default): Carlos Marmol, John Grabow, Esmailin Caridad, either Sean Marshall or Tom Gorzelanny (Marshall gets the start tomorrow and Gorzelanny starts on Thursday, as the two lefties vie for one spot in the rotation), either Carlos Silva or Jeff Samardzija, Justin Berg, and James Russell.
I would think Hendry will probably be stepping-up his pursuit of a veteran MLB set-up man with closer experience, who can be the #1 8th inning set-up guy and close on days when Marmol is unavailable (Marmol throws a lot of pitches-per-inning, and so even if he turns out to be the 2010 N. L. Fireman of thed Year, he probably will not be able to throw more than three days in row). Toronto Blue Jays RHP Jason Frasor would appear to fit the Cubs need perfectly, but of course the Jays know that, too, so the Cubs would probably have to overpay to get him.
31-year old veteran RHRP Mike Adams has pitched very well for San Diego this Spring and would probably be available in a deal if the Cubs would be willing to give up a couple of decent prospects, but he does not have MLB closer experience. (Adams was eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this past off-season, and he and the Padres agreed on a $1.2M contract in lieu of going to abitration).
Getting the start at 3B, veteran Chad Tracy had a bad day today, getting called-out on strikes, grounding into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP, and flying out to right at the plate, while also throwing a ball away for a two-base error (his only defensive chance of the day) on what should have been a routine 5-3 ground-out.