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neil ramirezFirst, the bad news: Justin Ruggiano’s hamstring injury is not insignificant. It’s a grade two strain, which will have him out at least three to four weeks, and that’s a pretty optimistic timetable given the recent history of hamstring injuries in baseball. Guys simply don’t seem to come back from even mild strains within a few weeks anymore. Ruggiano could be back in June, which could still provide some time to develop trade value, but I wouldn’t bank on it (not that you were banking on it already).

Now, the interesting news: in Ruggiano’s place, the Cubs are calling up a pair of relievers, not position players. To accommodate the multiple arms coming up, the Cubs are sending Blake Parker back to AAA Iowa.

The relievers: righty Neil Ramirez and lefty Zac Rosscup.

That’s a 13-man pitching staff for those counting at home, which is atypically large I don’t think we’ll see it last too long, but, as I said this morning, Emilio Bonifacio’s versatility allows the Cubs to go with four “outfielders,” rather than five. It’s possible the Cubs will carry 13 pitchers all the way through the next turn in the rotation so that, when Carlos Villanueva makes his last start (before Jake Arrieta returns) and then heads to the bullpen, the Cubs won’t be pitching with a “short” bullpen.

But that’s still more than a week away. Would the Cubs really carry 13 pitchers for that long? And then after Arrieta does return, which two pitchers get moved out?

As for the relievers, both are possible long-term pieces in the Cubs’ pen. Ramirez, 24, has been a strikeout machine at AAA this year (14.1 K/9), and there has always been a belief that he could be a fantastic reliever if his starting days were over (as with Justin Grimm, that remains to be seen, long-term). Ramirez, you’ll recall, was acquired with Grimm (and C.J. Edwards and Mike Olt) in last year’s Matt Garza trade. He looked fantastic in Spring Training, for what that’s worth.

Rosscup, 25, has likewise been a strikeout machine in the minors, even as he’s battled control issues. He’s got a future in the bigs, at a minimum, as a situational lefty, so it’ll be interesting to see him now.

There are jobs still to be won in this bullpen, so it’s nice to see guys like Ramirez and Rosscup getting a shot.

Each pitcher was already on the 40-man roster, so there are no implications there.

  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

    That makes 3 big leaguers already for 3 months of Garza…WINNING

    • Funn Dave

      Poor Texas….Oh well, haha!

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I’ve got concerns with control on the Ramirez side more than Rosscup, but I suspect both are likely to be part of the Cubs long term plans.

  • MightyBear

    Ramirez was walking a lot of guys at Iowa and gave up a couple bombs in not that many innings. He has the stuff, just needs to control it.

  • ssckelley

    In a pinch Valbuena can also be used in the outfield, he has played a few games in left.

    • CubFan Paul

      He’ll be too busy manning 2B

      • Spoda17

        … or catching, or pitching, or playing first base…

        • CubFan Paul

          …you didn’t get it

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    We have three guys that are just taking up space. Veres, Wright and Russel. Russell was washed up last year IMO and continues to be unimmpressive this year. At some point Theo is going to have to clean house and go with the youth movement. .In this case you do throw the baby out with the bath water.

    • CubFan Paul

      “Russell was washed up last year IMO and continues to be unimmpressive this year”

      He would be fine if they put him on LOOGY duty for a month or two

      • Coach K

        He wasn’t yesterday. But, yes, with these additions hopefully his role will be limited to much more favorable situations for him.

  • blars82

    I was hoping to see Vitters get called up. Maybe that will still happen? I felt bad for Ruggiano that he got hurt, but it was also pretty painful for us to watch him play defense in the 9th.

    • CubsFaninMS

      I believe that, with the excess of relievers, one or two of them are about to play themselves off the roster. It’s a smidge too early to write anyone off (including Veras), but if the poor performances continue, I can see Veras, Russell, or Wright being sent packing. That is, of course, under the contingency that Ramirez and/or Rosscup outplay them. It should not be difficult for them to do. When that happens you would think Vitters would be the next position player in line to make it assuming that he continues to produce in Iowa.

    • ssckelley

      I still wonder why he was even in there at that point in the game. I think Kalish makes the catch to end the game.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        Good point Kelly, in a save situation like that it is common practice to put your best defenders in the outfield. I suspect the hammy was bothering Ruggiano when he didn’t get to that ball that hung for quite awhile. There’s plenty of blame to go around for that half an inning. Tough loss!

  • esruc

    Both guys were acquired due to Garza, ironic to see them called up together while Garza’s long gone.

  • Fishin Phil

    Relievers with control issues?? In the Cubs bullpen?? Never!

    • blars82

      I still felt like pulling Strop for Russell was a huge mistake. Your closer’s supposed to have the best stuff and get anyone out and Strop seemed to have finally found his groove. I guess Russell should have had a strikeout and then Ruggiano should have caught that so I it doesn’t really matter. I was mostly just mad that I have Strop on my fantasy team and wanted a save!

      • Funn Dave

        “Your closer’s supposed to have the best stuff and get anyone out”

        None of our relievers can get anyone out, which is why we don’t have a nominal closer.

        • blars82

          Haha, good point!

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Justin Grimm: 11 IP, 1 ER, 13 Ks
          Hector Rondon: 11.1 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks

          • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

            Yeah Rondon needs to be closing and Grimm be the 8th inning guy. If these two stick then Veras might be gone and if Strop has option (anyone know) he might benefit from being demoted for a few weeks. Hopefully a trade is made soon that moves Barney, a reliever, and an outfield bat in the next 30 days. We won’t get much but we are hitting a roster crunch and it’s either trade or release some players.

            • Spoda17

              Yeah, I agree Goat. It’s good to have a “surplus” of players, but there comes a time where you just have too many guys. Especially if they all are performing about the same. Someone has to go…

            • Brocktoon

              The return on those 3 isn’t going to be much better than releasing them

              • ssckelley

                I would be pissed if they cut Barney. But I agree, the Cubs may have waited too long to trade players like Russell and Schierholtz.

              • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                The Cubs got Ivan Pineyro for Scott Hairston and a nice upside arm in Erick Leal for Tony Campana. Anything is possible

      • cubmig

        I’d like to know the speculation of why–or what–anyone here thinks motivated RR to bring in Russell for Strop? The Castro error set up the D-Backs comeback; no blame on Strop. The fly ball Rugg should have caught but he let drop in for a hit; no blame on Strop. So what was it that made RR make the move?

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          How about the two walks for Strop? Or the actual strikes that he threw being grooved right down the middle? Fact is, he had absolutely zero command yesterday and Russell’s job is to get lefties out.

          • MattM

            FullCountTommy, come on! Yes, Russell’s job WAS to get out lefties, but he has shown that he can’t do it! There really was no reason to bring him in…

            And honestly Castro made an error and Ruggiano sucks apparently in the outfield or they would have had two outs. It really wasn’t Strop…

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              Small sample size, but until that Montero hit, lefties had gone 2 for 10 this year off Russell, so for the most part he has done his job.

              How are walks not Strop’s fault?? Yes, Castro should make that play, but if Strop didn’t walk the previous guy, Castro doesn’t have to rush to try to turn the double play and probably makes it. Also, that ball that was hit to Ruggiano that “should” have caught was given up by Russell, not Strop. I put should in quotes because if you’ve ever played right field, a top spin line drive from a lefty right at you is the hardest play for a right fielder to make.

          • cubmig

            True. Walks hurt, but they have to score to be damaging and the “damaging” came as a result of what followed. I am not defending Strop. He definitely showed a lack of control. At the same time he pitched to opportunity for a chance to get out of the situation he created. This is more on getting a read on what you –and others–RR’s thinking (as tough as that may be).

        • Petey28

          I’m not sure what his exact pitch count was, but it had to be getting fairly high. A lot of these guys are only used to facing 3-6 batters. Plus he had that long, tiring sequence with one of the batters.

        • twinkletoez

          I think it had to do with the fact that Strop had already hit 31 pitch count, and his fastball was 2-3mph slower during the last batter he faced compared to the first (according the gun at the game)

  • CubsFaninMS

    Throw out that bath water, call up the Tsuyoshi Wada.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Another reason why some players need to get traded.

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    I was hoping for Vitters too..hopefully he can come up sometime and get playing time.
    Ruggs….he will be out 2 months..with that type of tear…

  • diamonddon

    Great call ups! Ramirez is here to stay! He may have the best arm of all the pitchers in the pen.

  • cubmig

    Off topic: NYY’s Pinieda. How did Giardi miss that pine tar stripe Pinieda had on his neck? Weird.

    • cubmig

      ^Girardi

    • Karl Groucho

      Yeah, I wonder how he “missed” it.

  • Kyle

    If Vitters can’t find a role when a RH outfielder goes down, then he has no business being on the 40-man.

    • ame1908

      Nailed it… if not now (when we go back to a 12-man staff), when else will he get a shot?

    • jp3

      He doesn’t fit the team concept right now.😊

      • Kyle

        He’s been drawing a pretty good number of walks the last two years.

        • jp3

          I actually meant he’d be an improvement possibly over Kalish/Ruggiano/Sweeney/Schierholtz.

  • ame1908

    I think it’s time to trick some team into taking Russell before the deadline. Just dump the salary, because no one is dumb enough to give up anything for him. His peripherals are pretty ugly this year, not to mention that they have been trending downwards since a decent 2012 season.

    We have a few other lefties now that could easily take his place, as opposed to a few years ago when it seemed like he was the only southpaw in the system.

  • Brocktoon

    Cubs are saying they’re going with 13 until Ruggiano comes back which seems…dumb

    • ame1908

      Where did you see that?

      Seems like a silly idea to me. Then again, I’m not a general manager.

      • jp3

        That’s interesting because what would be the reason why? Our SP haven’t been that bad have they (except for EJax)? Why the extra bodies?

        • ame1908

          I’m confused… I don’t like the 13 man staff because I don’t think any team needs 8 relievers. Like you said, our SP have been pretty solid to this point.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          Maybe they have finally decided to not let any SP go above 100 pitches.

      • Brocktoon

        Read it on NSBB can’t find a link at the moment

        • ame1908

          I actually looked for it. Mark Gonzalez of the Trib posted a video of a Renteria interview and that’s pretty much exactly what he said. He wants the extra arms in the bullpen for a few weeks. I just can’t figure out why…

          • Brocktoon

            I’d bet were going to see a lot of Larussa level switches every other batter

  • Blackhawks1963

    Josh Vitters hasn’t hit in 10 days. Why o’ why people keep banging the drum for this bust to get a major league chance is beyond me. And can he play the outfield capably enough?!?

    • ssckelley

      Probably because he is on the 40 man and has an OPS of .858 combined at AAA. Granted he is learning a new position but would not call a 24 year old Vitters a bust yet.

      I could have swore you were clamoring for him a couple of weeks ago as well. His recent slump is probably the reason he did not get the call.

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