On Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs optioned pitcher Jeff Samardzija to AAA Iowa and called up 38-year old reliever Chad Fox.
Fox is a journeyman veteran who has a career 3.60 ERA in 217 games.
Following placing Carlos Zambrano on the Disabled List, the Cubs had to look for more starting pitching options because they chose to call up Samardzija early rather than try to stretch him out to be a starter and let him develop in AAA ball. The Cubs have indicated that Randy Wells will take his spot in the rotation while Zambrano recovers.
The move gives the Cubs a new option out of the pen, as Samardzija has struggled thus far, posting a 8.10 ERA in five appearances. Furthermore, the Cubs struggled to find the right role for Samardzija, as he was clearly not fit for the setup role and couldn't be used enough as a result of his poor performances. Samardzija will have time to work in AAA, presumably again as a starter as insurance down the road.
If Samardzija continues to develop his pitches and consistency in AAA, he should be a reliable option should another Cubs pitcher (Rich Harden?) go down later in the year. Not only was Samardzija's role in the bullpen limited and erratic, limiting Samardzija's development, but Samardzija also failed to put up solid numbers when called upon.
Chad Fox is coming off of surgery that caused him to miss all of 2006 and 2007 and spend all of 2008 in the minors. Fox is slated in the sixth or seventh inning setup role and with the number of young pitchers the Cubs have in the bullpen, Fox's experience and leadership is a much-needed addition.
Overall, the move allows Samardzija to see consistent playing time in order to further develop his pitches and at the same time provides a new arm and leadership to the Cubs bullpen. Needless to say, the Cubs could use a change, as the pen has posted a combined record of 4-5 and no pitcher out of the 'pen has an ERA under 4.00.