Today, the Chicago Cubs bolstered the bullpen by adding up-and-down righty Felix Pena, and optioning infielder Tommy La Stella to AAA Iowa. Further, the Cubs confirmed that Mike Montgomery will move into the bullpen, which was all but inevitable with Kyle Hendricks returning to the rotation next week.
Not only that, but when Hendricks is activated from the DL, the Cubs were going to have to option someone out, and it was possibly going to be La Stella anyway – now, the Cubs get an extra reliever for a couple days instead of an extra bat.
Pena, 27, has frankly not pitched well at AAA or in the big leagues this year, but the guy has great stuff, and clearly looks like a capable middle reliever. Numbers aside, I can see why the Cubs like him as one of the up-and-down arms, especially with his ability to eat multiple innings when a game has gone sideways. This is Pena’s fourth time up this year.
La Stella continues to be the victim of a tight roster, having done nothing but hit this year (.298/.414/.509). With Kris Bryant returning to the lineup today, the Cubs weren’t “short” a player, thus making the option a little more palatable. I doubt La Stella will be down too long, but he will certainly be back, at a minimum, when rosters expand in September.
Montgomery got great results in the bullpen earlier this year, despite a minimal strikeout rate and a maximum walk rate – opponents simply couldn’t hit him hard. We’ll see how things play for him now that he’s been shuffled back out of the rotation. I doubt he’s made his final start of the year.