Position battles: The right side of the pen - KMOV.com

Position battles: The right side of the pen

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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) By Jonathan Daniel (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) By Jonathan Daniel

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Cubbie Tracker) -- Compared to the left side of the bullpen, the right side resembles the 1970 Orioles.  The Cubs can line up a handful of options leading up to Hector Rondon in the 9th.  In fact, just talking about the right side without using the word "Marmol" gives me tremendous comfort.  Let's start with the closer, and work our way backwards from the right side.  There are probably 5 jobs open here, maybe 6 depending on how many lefties make the bullpen.  I will need to head to the medicine cabinet before talking about our collection of southpaws.


If there was any silver lining from 2014, and you have to look hard to find any, it was Rondon establishing himself as a solid closer.  The Cubs went through other options (who can forget Jose Veras?) before Rondon grabbed the job, and closed out 29 games.  The WRA/WHIP and strikeout numbers weren't off the charts, but Rondon kept the ball in the park, and was solid in the 9th, going 15-15 in save chances down the stretch.  He's only 26, so the Cubs are betting on more to come.  He had elbow issues as a young pitcher in the Indians organization which led to two surgeries.  Fastball can reach the upper 90's, but he's more than a one pitch closer, with a slider, cutter and sinker in the tank.  He never looked rattled last year, and with four pitches, I'm comfortable calling this a strength.


Strop enters the season as the 8th inning guy.  He's been really solid for the Cubs the past two years, with excellent ERA/WHIP splits, and like Rondon, he's been able to keep the ball in the park late in games. 29 years old, fastball, splitter, slider. Like Rondon, and pretty much all 8th and 9th inning guys these days, he can hit the upper 90's.  He's always had a big arm, but has been held back by command and off speed pitches.  If he can get his slider over for strikes, giving him a pair of hard pitches, he's tough.  He'd be first in line if Rondon falters


More goodies courtesy of Matt Garza and the Rangers.  Only 25, former first round pick out of high school, Ramirez was lights out for the Cubs as a rookie.  He had shoulder issues in the minors, where he worked as a starter.  Mid 90's fastball, with a slider that is his swing and miss pitch.  Off speed offerings aren't as sharp yet, but he showed great composure on the mound.  Right now, he projects anywhere the Cubs want him.  He will need four pitchers to convert to a starter, but he easily rates as one of the better young arms in the organization, so it's possible down the road.  But for now, he's solid late inning depth from the right side.


Motte comes to town as the wildcard, protection if those above him stumble.  He's 32 now, and will probably never see his Cardinal prime again after battling back from Tommy John.  He's pretty much just a fastball pitcher, with the other offerings just for show, and rarely that.  The question now is can he get major league hitters out with reduced velocity?  The Cubs will give him time and low pressure situations to see if there's a future.  Motte has always been a solid clubhouse guy, and active in the community.  Not much risk here.  Numbers were not good as he battled back last year.  We'll just have to wait and see what's still in the tank.


I would expect Grimm to make the squad, as he's an option to be an emergency starter.  You can see his profile in the starting pitcher section.


Turner heads to camp as the backup option to Grimm, likely to make the team if the Cubs keep six righties, with an edge in that he can start or relieve.


Parker is now 29, having been in the Cubs system forever.  He got a cup of coffee in the bullpen the past couple of years, and survived.  He throws hard, and has been a strikeout pitcher at every level, but has struggled with control.  Fastball, curve, splitter.  But he spent parts of seven seasons in AAA, so there's been organizational hesitation.


25 year old has worked his way through the Cubs system.  Minor league numbers have been marginal at best, but he was better last year at AAA.  He's been a starter throughout his career. He pitches to contact, with a slider and splitter as his top weapons, and   has a very good groundball rate, which would play in Wrigley.  Good control, but has struggled with lefties.


If Schlitter is on the roster, the Cubs have problems.  Career ERA over 5, and a WHIP over 1.5, without a strikeout pitch.  At 29, it's hard to see where the improvement comes from.


All Cub fans would love to see this, but the reality is no matter what Edwards shows in camp, he's targeted for AA, with maybe AAA at some point this year.  The stew needs to brew.

About the author: Bob Cyphers has 35 years of experience as a journalist in newspaper, radio and television.  Sadly, he has even more experience as a die-hard, heartbroken, beaten down Cub fan.  And although he promises that his beloved Cubs, as Ernie Banks predicted, will be "Supreme in 2015," deep down Bob understands that life, and the Cubbies, offers no guarantees. 

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