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With a day off on Thursday, I felt like it was time to look into the future.
“The future, Conan?”
Sorry, but there will be no Jeff Goldblum or Andy Richter appearances today.
But in all seriousness, off-days bum me out, so let’s take this time to look at some questions facing the Cubs’ pitching staff.
Closer: I figured, why not? Let’s just go straight to the fireworks.
Everyone’s been talking about the Cubs’ closer woes recently, and with good cause.
In the past week (seven games for those counting), the bullpen has given up 16 runs, and that’s not including the run charged to Tom Gorzelanny when Sean Marshall gave up an RBI-single with two on and one out.
However, it’s not Marshall (who’s actually been one of the few consistent relief arms this season) who has fingers pointed at him.
That, my friends, has been closer Kevin Gregg.
Not only did Gregg not come in with great enthusiasm from fans (after all he was acquired for well-touted prospect Jose Ceda, and inevitably ended longtime Cubbie Kerry Wood’s stay in Chicago), but he has been very inconsistent (and I’m trying to be nice).
He’s had five blown saves, which may not seem like that much if most of his “saves” didn’t come with enough drama to practically give Ron Santo a heart attack.
And in the last few days, he’s been especially terrible (he blames a tired arm, I blame no arm).
On Saturday, Gregg blew an 8-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth to his former team, the Florida Marlins. Fortunately for Gregg though, Derrek Lee hit a solo shot in the top of the tenth inning, and Aaron Heilman did what Gregg couldn’t and shut down the Marlins in the bottom of the tenth for the save.
Gregg didn’t see this as showing off enough in front of his former team.
On Sunday, the aforementioned Heilman blew a great performance by starter Ryan Dempster when he gave up a Cody Ross solo homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to initially blow his sixth save of the season.
Gregg, however, put the icing on the cake.
After a Jake Fox solo shot in the top of the ninth, Gregg came and got All-Star Hanley Ramirez to pop out on the infield, a breather for many fans.
Then Dan Uggla came in, and after a few pitches made a nice trip around the bases, blew save number five—tied ballgame.
That wasn’t the end, Cody Ross, yes, that Cody Ross came up and Gregg wasted no time, his first pitch was sent into the Landshark Stadium bleachers. Game over.
So what are we to do with this Gregg fellow?
You can say to promote from within, but are you willing to put the cardiac kid Carlos Marmol in there and risk taking Santo to the grave, or go with Heilman who was an offseason acquisition that kind of flew under the radar (and now I see that was because he’s washed up).
There’s also Angel Guzman, who, after Tommy John surgery, seemed to go missing for a year and a half, but who seems to be throwing well. (He did have a recent hiccup in a 6-3 Cubs win that really didn’t end up mattering, except for in the books).
Lou Piniella wouldn’t possibly think of throwing a Triple-A guy into the situation, with recently called up righty Jeff Stevens throwing so well. Or how about going even deeper and throwing in current Iowa closer Blake Parker (2-1, 2.25 ERA, 11 saves), or recent Double-A call-up John Gaub (0-1, 0.61 ERA, 14Ks, 4BBs)?
Personally, I thought that B.J. Ryan was looking good stat-wise in Triple-A (he didn’t give up a hit in 5 2/3 innings), and was hoping that he could come and give us a spark at the closer position down the stretch.
So Cubs fans, I hate to say it, but barring a waiver wire acquisition, it looks like we’re stuck with an inconsistent Gregg, a wild Marmol, or trooper Angel Guzman.
Tom Gorzelany: Don’t worry bored Cubs fans, I promise the rest will be shorter, the closer situation is just that bad.
Gorzelany, the newly acquired southpaw, looked sharp in his first outing Tuesday night. And from what I’ve heard, they were planning on him making three more starts.
So, what is going to happen when Ted Lilly comes back?
Will Gorzelanny get the boot back down to Triple-A, where he’s spent much of this season with the Pirates' organization?
Will you throw him in the pen and have him and Marshall split duty as situational lefties? (Remember, you can never have too many situational southpaws).
Or does Lou rock the six-man rotation?
Now, don’t get me wrong, Gorzo has only pitched one game for us so far, but he did look really sharp, and he was a 14-game winner only two years ago. Getting him back to his old form could be key for a late-season run.
Rich Harden: The hard throwing righthander, who was acquired in a C.C. Sabathia response deal last summer, has failed to put up consistent numbers so far this season.
At times, we’ve seen brilliance out of Harden, but this season has seen too many games where the Cubs found their opponents with a six-spot and the game isn’t even half way over.
With an offense that hasn’t responded to pressure well in the past, keeping runs off the board early helps your chances of winning.
I have a crazy idea, and I know it may be scrutinized, but I want you to think about it. Now this spurned from an article that I saw on BleacherReport.com.
Tab Bamford, a respected Cubs' writer on “The Report” as I call it, asked why Rich Harden wasn’t talked about to be the Cubs’ next closer.
Now, judging by how Gorzelanny pitches in his next couple of outings, I would love to see the Cubs experiment with this.
Harden’s a high strikeout, high pitch count, fireballer, a good mold for a closer (see Jose Valverde), and if Gorzo can keep it going, I’d love to have him as our fifth starter.
We’d no longer have to see a Harden line that read: 6.0 IP, 6 ER, 5 BBs, 12 Ks.
All I’m saying, is we should explore the option.
And so for all of you that stuck around for this entire novella, I thank you, may God have mercy on your soul.