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Building a Bullpen Through Trial and Error, Last Night’s Error, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

trevor cahill cubsThe 2016 BN Blogathon has been announced. Short version? I go nuts for two days at the Trade Deadline to entertain you and raise money for Make-A-Wish. Full details here. Please consider making a donation here.

  • I totally understand why the Cubs have given Joel Peralta a shot. There’s a familiarity with Joe Maddon. There were the excellent L/R splits. There was a need. There was a chance that, when put in meaningful spots, he’d rise up a bit and show he still had something left. When it’s late June and your bullpen has issues, these are the things teams do to figure out what they do and do not have before the Trade Deadline rolls around. Sure, the Marlins were able to get Fernando Rodney yesterday, but it cost them a seriously good pitching prospect to pull it off. Generally speaking, deals aren’t there to be had right now, and the ones that are might not be advisable anyway. So, you see what you can do with reclamation guys. Sometimes it works – as it did, in spades, for the Cubs last year with Rodney, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard, all of whom everyone would have said was “obviously done” when the Cubs picked them up. Each became a huge part of the Cubs’ success last year, and Cahill’s success continues on into this year.

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  • Most times, though, it does not work. Because obviously. Watching Peralta last night, I couldn’t help but remember how I felt watching Rafael Soriano last year. He simply didn’t look like a guy who could get out big league hitters. I don’t just mean bad results, I mean there was something you could see in watching him that “it” just wasn’t there anymore. Nothing in the zone was being taken or missed, and nothing out of the zone was even remotely considered for a swing. And then most of the stuff in the zone was fat and hittable. That’s how Peralta looked last night, and how he’s looked each of his three outings with the Cubs, even when he’s been matched up against guys he’s supposed to pitch well against. Is that enough to move on? For me, given his last couple years of struggles and his age, it probably would be. We’ll see if it is for the Cubs. Again: I understand and agree with taking these shots right now, and sometimes it means putting a guy in a tight spot to see how he responds (which, as we saw last night, can have terrible consequences). But I have not seen any signs of a useful pitcher on a contender.
  • On the decision to use Peralta in that spot, Joe Maddon told ESPN that, in his mind, you have certain players on the roster for certain situations, and that was a spot (two lefties coming up) where Peralta is to be used. You could probably read that a number of ways, but I’ll keep it simple: he’s absolutely right. Peralta – essentially a LOOGY (who throws right-handed) – is on the roster for those very spots. I get it. Totally. It’s just … now that we’ve seen him a few times, it’s probably time to consider whether he can actually effectively be that guy anymore.
  • Apropos of last night’s Peralta struggles, here’s a great read on Joe Nathan’s rehab comeback, currently underway at AA Tennessee. The 41-year-old former star closer is literally 15 years older than any other player on the Smokies’ roster, but he wants to make his way back from a second Tommy John surgery. Undoubtedly the Cubs, who signed him to a big league contract, hope the same. Nathan has made three appearances so far for the Smokies, the most recent coming last night, and he’s given up just a solo home run in three innings of work with three strikeouts. If he continues to progress and doesn’t have any setbacks, he could be an option for the Cubs’ bullpen just after the All-Star break (which would give the Cubs a couple weeks to see what he has in the tank before the Trade Deadline).

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  • For his part, by the way, Clayton Richard pitched a scoreless, two-strikeout inning a few days ago at AAA Iowa as he rehabs a blister/nail issue (but also probably is just trying to get back on track). He’d be eligible to return to the Cubs in five days. Other “next up” options include Jack Leathersich and Aaron Crow, who are rehabbing post-TJS in Arizona, Brian Matusz, whom the Cubs signed to a minor league deal, Armando Rivero, who is pitching well at AAA Iowa.
  • Another bullpen bit: if you were hoping Sean Doolittle would be the Cubs’ prime target, he just hit the DL with a shoulder issue (which is scary enough, but he missed most of last year with a shoulder injury). Doolittle and the A’s don’t sound concerned in their comments, but when this happens to a pitcher in late-June/early-July, it just becomes nearly impossible to see a trade coming together. Buyers will want a steep discount to account for the injury risk, and the A’s have him under cheap team control for a while yet, and thus will have little incentive to sell low.
  • John Lackey gonna Lackey – after the game, when he was asked if there is more significance because the Cubs are playing the Mets, he said (per CSN): “None. It’s June, who cares? Big-boy games are totally different.” Whether you agree or disagree, that’s a great line.
  • On Javy Baez’s big error last night, he explained after the game that he didn’t feel like he had a play at the plate or at first base, so he opted to try and get the out at third base (Cubs.com). Unfortunately, Kris Bryant wasn’t ready for the throw, and the rest is history. Here’s the play if you missed it, and it’s not at all hard to see why – right or wrong – Baez went to third, since his momentum was going that way and the runner would have been toast:


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  • Baez also homered last night, extending what has been a fantastic stretch for him at the plate. Check out Michael’s piece on that very topic from late yesterday if you missed it.

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  • Jake Arrieta is under consideration for a start in the All-Star Game. Also, Jake Arrieta in The Body Issue dot hello!
  • Part of the reason Jason Heyward sat out the last two games was because of soreness on his left side (Tribune), but he should be back in there tonight.
  • Happy Bobby Bonilla Pay Day! Yup, he’s still getting those annual payments from the Mets … for a very long time still.
  • We talked yesterday about the absurdity of what the Reds did in the finale (hitting Kris Bryant because the Cubs used a squeeze bunt to score a run, up six in the 7th inning), and Joe Maddon told the Tribune that he was indeed upset by it.

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  • There is no update on Dexter Fowler (hamstring) or Jorge Soler (hamstring) right now, according to Cubs.com. Tommy La Stella could be back as soon as this weekend.
  • Nice. Pumas are the Deal of the Day at Amazon today. Love mine. Want more.
  • And a big happy birthday to Luis! Welcome to the ranks of the aged, my friend.

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.