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

Position battles: The left side of the pen

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(Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) By Brian Kersey (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) By Brian Kersey

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Cubbie Tracker) -- Enter at your own risk here.  With James Russell gone, it's pick a number time on the left side of the bullpen.  It's difficult to even guess how this shakes out.  Clearly, it's going to be an area of concern heading into the season.  In a perfect world, the Cubs would find two arms down there.  Surely, they will find at least one, won't they?

FELIX DOUBRONT........both the Cubs and Doubront see him as a starting pitcher, and both would be happy if he won a spot there.  If he doesn't, he's still likely to stick in the bullpen, and get a crack at a spot start.  But if he's stretched out in that role, he won't be a lefty specialist, which is really what the Cubs will need going forward.

ZAC ROSSCUP.........Rosscup is 26, and made it to the Cubs in both of the past two seasons.  The results were both remarkable, and horrible.  The remarkable part was his strikeout ability, averaging nearly 13 whiffs per nine.  At Iowa, it was nearly 15, which would be among the greatest number in the history of baseball.  And now the horrible:  An ERA pushing 7, and a WHIP pushing 2.  You can't survive with those numbers, no matter how many guys who swing and miss.  He throws in the low 90's, and has a good slider.  But nobody knows where those pitches are going.  Here's the deal:  with an empty sack from the left side of the pen, especially for a specialist, I'm moving Rosscup up the ladder based on nothing but the strikeouts.  The stuff is there, if he can just find the command.  But it might be easier to find Noah’s Arc.

ERIC JOKISCH.......25 year old from the farm system, Jokisch was a September call up.  Good control, not overwhelming stuff, with consistent numbers across the minor league horizon.  He's been a starter in the minors, and I think that's where the Cubs project him long term, but his chance to stick now is probably in the bullpen.  Fastball and slider, but his best pitch is the change.  He’s behind Rosscup only in that the need for a reliever specialist.

JOSEPH ORTIZ......Ortiz is 24, and comes over on waivers after a cup of coffee last year with Texas.   He had a fractured foot last year, but did compile a successful minor league record coming up with the Rangers.  He's more of a breaking ball pitcher, with better control than Rosscup.  Out pitch is a changeup.  His age makes him interesting, but also makes it likely he starts in Iowa until the Cubs either find out who he is, or what they have from the left side.

DRAKE BRITTON......similar to Ortiz, the 24 year old was claimed from Boston.  Not bad over 25 appearances for the BoSox the past two years.  Like Jokisch, he was pretty much a starter in the minors, so there is a learning curve here.  Britton throws hard, sitting in the low 90's.  He still needs work on his off speed pitches, and his control.  He should wind up in Iowa with Ortiz, giving the Cubs will have some left side depth there. 

There's no doubt this is a sore spot for Theo and the gang.  The Cubs will surely continue checking the waiver wire throughout the spring.  This is a hard position to fill, which explains why Jesse Orosco and Frank Dipino can probably still get a job. 

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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