The Cubs need to make a change in their bullpen soon. Tuesday night’s game in Tampa Bay should be proof enough of that.
With the game tied at one and Ryan Dempster's pitch count reaching 100 after just five innings, Lou Piniella was forced to make a difficult decision—who to call in from the 'pen so early in the game?
The Cubs certainly have a number of solid arms to choose from, but Chicago's Big Three should hardly be expected to handle four innings in the middle of the regular season.
Taking those three out of the equation left Lou with four choices to handle the sixth in the game that was then tied: Neal Cotts, Michael Wuertz, Scott Eyre, or Jon Lieber.
Lou went with Cotts, and soon regretted it.
Cotts was responsible for both of the runs scored by the Rays after Dempster left, including a first-pitch home run to Evan Longoria in the sixth.
He also opened the seventh with a two-base throwing error, allowing Akinori Iwamura, who eventually scored, to reach third base with no outs.
Even Cotts' outs were hit hard. He benefited from an outstanding play by Ryan Theriot on one ball, and a catch out in left from a ways back on the warning track for another.
Was Cotts the right choice for the inning, given the current make-up of the Cubs bullpen?
It was too early for the Big Three; Eyre is the lefty specialist, not a middle-inning power reliever, and Lieber is the long man, for large leads or early departures by starters.
By deduction, then, the only other truly viable option was Michael Wuertz. And with a quick glance at Evan Longoria's lefty-right splits, it's easy to see why Lou brought in Cotts to start the inning.
Unfortunately for Cubs fans, Cotts failed.
Tuesday’s outing gives him a 4.91 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP on the season, not to mention a 1.83 WHIP in his past ten appearances.
These poor numbers seem to necessitate a change—either via acquisition, or with an in-house move. With neither Kevin Hart nor Sean Marshall looking particularly impressive out of the bullpen in limited action this year, most want the Cubs to move Cotts down to Iowa in exchange for Jose Ascanio, who, despite his handedness, managed to look decent in his limited time with the team.
If Ascanio doesn't succeed, perhaps we'll even see the Cubs' first draft pick of this year, RHP Andrew Cashner, get a shot in the majors later in the season.