Jeff Samardzija (PHOTO/LARRY WOOLIS)
The bullpen appears to be the biggest challenge facing the Cubs in the early going, but it looks as if the team will ride things out, at least for a little while.
General manager Jim Hendry has been in Des Moines watching the Class AAA Iowa affiliate, but it's unlikely he'll bring a reliever back with him when he returns to the big club later this week.
The question has arisen because of the spotty performances by a bullpen that has allowed 27 hits and 25 walks in 38 innings.
Most vexing has been lefty Neal Cotts, who has given up four hits and four walks while hitting a batter in 2 2/3 innings. Manager Lou Piniella said the Cubs need for Cotts to start throwing strikes.
For the first two games of the series against the Reds, beginning Tuesday, the Cubs will send Sean Marshall to the 'pen, giving them a pair of lefty relievers. That will give Piniella another option from the left side and possibly take some of the pressure off Cotts, who threw well for most of spring training.
The name drawing interest at Iowa is righty Jeff Samardzija, who was optioned out at the end of spring training after pitching out of the 'pen for the Cubs for much of the second half last year.
Samardzija is in Iowa's rotation, and he turned in a gem Saturday, giving up one hit and two runs in six innings. However, it's likely the Cubs will leave Samardzija at Iowa, at least for the time being, so that he can work on developing a full repertoire of pitches to go with an above-average fastball and splitter.
--IF/OF Jake Fox, a member of the 40-man roster, was named the Pacific Coast League's Hitter of the Week. Fox, who saw time with the Cubs in 2007, batted .487 for the week with Iowa with seven homers, five doubles and 14 runs scored. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) was 1.615 entering the week. Fox was drafted as a catcher in 2003, but he has yet to find a defensive position.
--RHP Carlos Marmol, the Cubs' most effective reliever to date, had a string of scoreless innings totaling 6 2/3 snapped Saturday. Marmol led the Cubs in appearances last year, with 82, and he is tied with LHP Neal Cotts this year. Each has appeared seven times. Marmol is 2-for-3 in save opportunities. Manager Lou Piniella has used him over RHP Kevin Gregg at times.
--The Sports XChange
IOWA 7, ROUND ROCK 5 (CLASS AAA)
At Des Moines, the Cubs (8-4) used 11 hits en route to their fourth win in five games Monday. LF Jason Dubois (3-for-4) paced the Cubs’ offense with three hits, and 2B Bobby Scales (2-for-4) picked up two hits for his fifth straight multi-hit game. 3B Nate Spears finished 1-for-4 with a two-run single. RHP Jose Ascanio started and allowed four runs (one earned) and three hits in 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision. LHP J.R. Mathes (2-1) picked up the win in relief, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings. RHP Kevin Hart pitched two innings in relief for his second save.
TENNESSEE 4, WEST TENNESSEE 2 (CLASS AA)
At Jackson, Tenn., the Smokies (5-5) used a four-run sixth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit and get the win Monday. 2B Tony Thomas (2-for-5) hit his third home run atop the order, and RF Jim Adduci (2-for-4) and 1B Blake Lalli (2-for-4) had two hits apiece. Tennessee used four pitchers with LHP Casey Lambert starting and tossing four innings, allowing one earned run and three hits in four innings. RHP Vince Perkins (1-0) got the win in relief with two scoreless innings. RHP Blake Parker pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his second save. He struck out four of the five batters he faced in 1 2/3 innings and did not allow a walk.
DAYTONA 6, DUNEDIN 2 (CLASS HIGH-A)
At Dunedin, Fla., the Cubs (5-6) tallied 11 hits in the win Monday. DH Tyler Colvin (3-for-5) finished with a season-high three hits and hit his first home run of the season. 1B Russ Canzler (2-for-4) added two hits, including his fourth double, to extend his hit streak to 10 consecutive games to open the season. 3B Marquez Smith (2-for-4) picked up his first multi-hit game to extend his hit streak to nine straight games to open the season. RHP Marcos Mateo started and tossed four shutout innings, allowing two hits in a no-decision. RHP Craig Muschko (1-1) got the win in relief, allowing two runs over three innings.