The Rundown: James Russell and Anthony Varvaro Called Up, Blake Parker DFA’d, Jeremy Null Continues Strong Start for South Bend
I was down for the count a couple nights ago with a nasty fever, so I’d like to send thanks to Evan for pinch-hitting on yesterday’s column.
One might think it was Monday night’s 10-9 loss to the Cardinals that made me sick, but that wasn’t the case — I was in bed by the time they blew the game, thankfully.
Last night’s game was only slightly less frustrating. Joe Maddon said on 670 the Score yesterday that he sees the Cubs absolutely being able to play with the Cardinals, with the main difference between the teams being the superior Cardinals pitching.
That pretty much sums up this series so far. Cubs were able to jump out to leads that appeared safe but weren’t able to hold down St. Louis.
Kyle Hendricks had another sub-par outing, going only five innings and giving up four runs. And then as has been the case lately (unlike earlier in the year), the bullpen couldn’t shut things down and keep the score tied.
The Cubs are going through a rough patch lately, but I have a good feeling that they bust out of it soon.
The Cubs bullpen has gotten a workout lately, and was in need for some fresh arms.
To compensate, the Cubs made a number of roster moves before Tuesday’s game:
* OF Chris Denorfia, who injured his hamstring Monday night, was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
* LHP James Russell makes his Cubs comeback after the team selected his contract from Triple-A Iowa.
* RHP Anthony Varvaro, recently claimed off waivers from the Red Sox, was called up from Iowa.
* To make room on the 40-man roster for Russell, RHP Blake Parker was designated for assignment.
Russell performed well down in Iowa since coming back over from the Braves: He pitched 9.2 scoreless innings and recorded three saves. Glad to have him back.
Parker’s story goes to show the unpredictablilty of a relief pitcher. In 2013, he was one of the more dependable arms out of the pen for the Cubs. He had a 2.72 ERA (2.90 FIP) in 46 innings, with 55 strikeouts.
Then in a somewhat surprising move last season, he was bypassed for the final bullpen spot coming out of Spring Training, which instead went to Brian Schlitter. Parker did appear in 18 games last year, but didn’t have as much success as the year before.
This year for Iowa, Parker only pitched 3.1 innings, giving up one run.
So the fallout from all of these moves means the Cubs will be going with 13 pitchers for the time being. Could see some interesting bench/lineup usage from Joe Maddon coming up.
Bryant’s plate approach
I love that Kris Bryant reached base five times on Monday. His patient approach has been very impressive so far, especially considering he has only played 17 MLB games.
But lately it appears as though he is behind in the count nearly every at-bat. He found himself in an 0-2 count in three out of four of his at-bats last night.
It seems to me that he’s down 0-2 a lot — not just last night. Despite that, he has managed to produce. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he makes an adjustment and takes a hack at a first-ball fastball and takes it deep. And then pitchers will be rethinking their approach quickly.
* LHP Joseph Ortiz, who recently had be DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster for Anthony Varvaro, cleared waivers and will remain in Iowa.
* Javier Baez hit a ball over the foul pole last night that was originally called a home run, but then overturned. He eventually flew out, and ended up getting thrown out of the game for arguing.
* South Bend’s Jeremy Null continued his impressive start to the season, tossing eight shutout innings and surrendering only four hits. He walked one — his first walk on the season.
* Panels in the new right-field scoreboard were installed yesterday. The left-field bleachers will be open when the Cubs return to Wrigley Field next week. The bleachers in right won’t be ready until June, but the new scoreboard will be up and running.