Chicago Cubs: Can the Bench Players Keep the Cubs in Contention?

Zack Pearson@Zack_PearsonCorrespondent IMay 31, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 27: Reed Johnson #9 of the Chicago Cubs hits a solo home run in the 8th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 27, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs had high expectations for the 2009 season. So far, those expectations have not gone to plan.

Plagued with injuries, the Cubs still find themselves only three games back of first place Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Aaron Miles, Ryan Freel, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and the biggest one Aramis Ramirez have all spent time on the DL.

Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Derek Lee and Geovanny Soto have also battled through injuries, but no time on the DL was needed.

How can a team with so many injuries still be just three games back of the division lead?

Well you should ask Bobby Scales, Koyie Hill, Andreas Blanco, Jake Fox, Randy Wells, Micah Hoffpauir and Reed Johnson.

Those are the Cubs bench and role players.

Those players have filled in for the players going on the DL, and keeping the Cubs within striking distance of first place.

When Aramis Ramirez went down in April with a shoulder injury, Cub fans hearts sank.

Ramirez landed on the DL, and wasn't expected back for two-three months.

"There goes the season." "We are done." Even "curse... it strikes again" ran through some Cub fans minds, I'm sure.

Changes were made in the infield to accommodate the third base position. Scales, Fontenot, and Miles all played a little bit of third base.

With the others splitting time at second.

Bobby Scales has been huge so far. He gives the Cubs the option to play him at second, short, or third. Same goes with Andreas Blanco.

Hoffpauir has filled in nicely for Derek Lee at first base, and also spending some time in left field for Milton Bradley. He gives the Cubs a ultimate power threat, and a left handed bat that they need.

Recently called up Jake Fox has maybe given the team a recent spark plug that they need. A guy that was tearing the ball up in AAA, and now has a chance to prove he belongs in the majors.

Randy Wells has filled in with the pitching injuries. Wells was called up when Zambrano went on the DL and every start has been a quality start for Wells.

While the win-loss numbers for Wells haven't been what the Cubs want, he has not got the run support in his starts. In his four starts, the Cubs have scored only a total of nine runs.

Wells is 0-2, but his ERA is only 1.80 and he has 23 strikeouts. When Harden comes back, it will be interesting to see what the Cubs do with Wells.

Wells and Sean Marshall should be fighting for that fifth spot in the rotation.

But those are  not the most important bench players. Not even close.

Reed Johnson has been huge for the Cubs so far this year, splitting time in the outfield with Soriano, Fukudome, and Bradley.

Johnson has come up huge in his at-bats this year, and really is the leader for this bench.

Johnson is batting .270 with three home runs and 12 RBI. Pretty good numbers for a bench player. With Reed playing so well, it gives the other bench players motivation that they can do the same.

Scales, Hoffpauir, Blanco, Hill, Johnson, Fox combined are batting .326  with 12 home runs and 43 RBI. Pretty good for your bench.

Can they keep this up long enough for the Cubs to stay in contention? If they can, getting Ramirez back is going to be a huge boost for this club.

If the Cubs can be within six games of first place when Ramirez returns, this team could be real dangerous.

A solid lineup with a real solid bench is key for a deep postseason run. And us Cubs haven't had one of those since 2003.


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