cubs-bullpenOh, Cubs bullpen. You looked so, so mighty coming into the season. Hopefully it’ll be mighty again, at least in the second half.

  • To that end, the Cubs could be close to getting reinforcements – well, beyond the addition of James Russell and Anthony Varvaro last night. Justin Grimm not only threw successfully in his first inning at AAA Iowa on Monday in his rehab assignment, but he must be feeling good, because the Cubs are deciding whether he needs another appearance there to ensure whether he’s ready to return (CSN). Even if he does appear once more at Iowa, we could be seeing Grimm back with the Cubs as soon as this weekend. (UPDATE: Even sooner. He’s back.)
  • Currently the bullpen has eight arms – Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Jason Motte, Phil Coke, Edwin Jackson, Zac Rosscup, Russell and Varvaro. That will change once the Cubs are ready to go back to seven arms, as well as when Grimm returns.

  • The other big arm the Cubs are without is Neil Ramirez, and the good news there is that he’s expect to throw off the mound for the first time today in Arizona ( Ramirez is recovering from inflammation in his shoulder, which may take a little longer to rehab than Grimm’s forearm inflammation (shoulders are a little scarier, and Ramirez has had shoulder issues in the past). Conservatively, if he’s on the mound now, it could be a few bullpen sessions before he’s ready for live batters in extended Spring Training or a simulated game. From there, it’s a rehab assignment. I still wouldn’t be expecting a return before June, but all signs are good so far.
  • Anthony Varvaro says that the Red Sox were looking for a longer reliever, which wasn’t Varvaro’s forte, so he was let go (
  • You may recall that lefty Joe Ortiz – who was at Iowa – was designated for assignment to make room for Varvaro this weekend. Good news on that front: Ortiz cleared waivers and was outrighted to Iowa, so he stays in the organization.
  • James Russell is happy to be back with the Cubs ( When the Braves released him earlier this year, it sounds like the Cubs were the team he wanted to join.

  • At Iowa, righty Armando Rivero has made four straight scoreless appearances, striking out five, walking one, and allowing one hit. After a rough start to the year, he seems to be righting the ship and could still factor into the Cubs’ pen later this year.
  • Ditto C.J. Edwards, who is still adjusting to his new role in the bullpen (and his new officially-listed name – Carl Edwards, Jr.) has been doing two-inning stints, and two of the last three have been scoreless (6 Ks and 4 BBs). The future for Edwards is uncertain – starting is still not out of the question, since his innings had to be limited this year after last season’s shoulder issue – but he could be in the Cubs’ pen at some point in the second half since he’s already on the 40-man.
  • This seems as good of a place as any to point out that Blake Cooper has a 1.98 ERA at AAA Iowa in 13.2 innings with 13 Ks and 5 BBs. The Cubs acquired the 27-year-old righty last year for Brett Jackson, and he was absurdly dominant at AA after coming over in the trade. I’m not sure if he’s “a guy” or not, but he might well be someone to follow.

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