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The Chicago Cubs will indeed carry seven pitchers in the bullpen, manager Lou Piniella confirmed yesterday. And six of those seven are already known, with four guys trying to win that last spot.

Lou Piniella said there are four pitchers competing for one spot and that group includes John Gaub, James Russell, Marcus Mateo and Mike Parisi. When asked about Berg, Piniella said: “Berg is in. Berg has done a nice job.”

That means the ‘pen now consists of closer Carlos Marmol, John Grabow, Esmailin Caridad, Berg, and two of the four pitchers who don’t make the rotation. That list includes Carlos Silva, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall. Muskat Ramblings.

There is one name glaringly absent from Piniella’s list of competitors for the final bullpen spot: Jeff Gray. Gray, acquired from the A’s earlier this offseason in the deal for Jake Fox and Aaron Miles, was expected to be a certainty in the pen. But after a groin strain kept him from pitching until very recently, he has apparently fallen off the bullpen wagon. He may simply start the season on the disabled list to buy the Cubs some more time to make a decision.

Two other observations:

1.) All other things equal, Mike Parisi will get the nod. If he doesn’t, the Cubs lose him, as he was a Rule Five pick. James Russell has clearly outpitched the other three, but as a lefty, his inclusion could dramatically imbalance the bullpen, depending on who makes the rotation. Speaking of…

2.) Why is it assumed that if Jeff Samardzija doesn’t make the rotation (he won’t), he’ll be in the bullpen this year? Is he really ready? Is he really a better option than Russell? Is it because of his Major League contract?

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