Bullpen Roles Up In Air For Cubs

Matters have been complicated by injuries to Craig Kimbrel and Brandon Kintzler.

Bruce Levine
August 06, 2019 - 7:44 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- With two of their best relievers in Craig Kimbrel and Brandon Kintzler landing on the injured list in the past two days, the Cubs will have to piece together their various high-leverage bullpen roles in the heat of a playoff race.

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It's not going to be an easy task for manager Joe Maddon, who plans to play it by ear. On Tuesday, the Cubs placed Kintzler (2.33 ERA in 49 appearances) on the injured list with right pectoral inflammation and activated reliever Pedro Strop in a corresponding move.

Strop has struggled with a 5.20 ERA this season and had landed on the injured list with neck soreness. Maddon indicated he'll be eased back in.

"I will use Pedro every other day right now," Maddon said. "Tonight the bullpen will be a total juggling act, very similar to what took place last night. I don't think it is wise to put Pedro at the end of the game either. I will try and auger out the right spot before that happens. He could be a part of the late matchup."

Complicating matters is that the reliable Steve Cishek has carried a heavy workload, with his 53 appearances ranking sixth in MLB. His effectiveness has dipped a bit lately, as he has been scored upon in three of his past five outings. Cishek also logged 80 appearances in 2018. Kintzler's 49 appearances are the second-most on the Cubs.

Still, the bullpen's workload hasn't been heavy in total. Cubs relievers have thrown 368 1/3 innings entering play Tuesday, the third-fewest in the National League. 

With that in mind, Maddon will trust his gut on a daily basis, even if it might mean throwing a dart at a bullpen board and hoping for the best results. Kyle Ryan and David Phelps combined to finish the Cubs' win against the Athletics on Monday after Kintzler left with his injury, and Rowan Wick has been impressive as well. They'll all be counted on.

"It is hard to describe, but a lot of this game about feel," Maddon said. "That really exceeds any numerical concepts. It exceeds any kind of logic sometimes. Feel is a part of what we do."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.