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The race to take a spot in the Chicago Cubs bullpen is a wildly crowded one. Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman (if healthy), and two of the would-be starting pitchers (Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Samardzija, and Carlos Silva (sigh)) seem like mortal locks to make the pen.

But is a fifth pitcher already locked in as well?

Piniella said rookie right-hander Esmailin Caridad, who debuted last August and had a 1.40 ERA in 14 appearances, is all but assured a spot in the bullpen.

”He’s on the team; he’s almost got to pitch himself off,” Piniella said. ”I don’t think he will. I like this young man. He competes. He’s got a good arm. He can pitch a lot. And he handled himself here quite well the last two months or so of the season that he was here.”

In fact, it might not be out of the question to see Caridad pitch himself into a late-inning setup role, especially if Guzman’s recovery goes longer than expected.

”He’s got the stuff for it,” Piniella said. ”Now, does he have the experience, the savvy? We’ll have to wait and see. One good thing about this young man is he’s not scared.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.

Caridad has been high on the Cubs’ radar since late 2008, but I’ll be frank: I had no idea that he was this locked in. Given that the list of other pitchers competing for spots in the bullpen is almost too long to recount without missing someone (Jeff Gray, Mike Parisi, Jeff Stevens, Justin Berg, Blake Parker, John Gaub, Thomas Diamond, James Russell, J.R. Mathis, Jeff Kennard, Vince Perkins, Casey Coleman, and Andrew Cashner), it’s hard to imagine that Caridad is locked in.

But so Piniella has said. I guess we’ll see how it plays out, and hopefully Caridad doesn’t get complacent.

  • BleacherBunch

    John Grabow is also a lock, that would be six locks if Caridad is already in.

    • Ace

      Wow, oops. That was a profound goof on my part – thanks BB.

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