"We're going to put together a good bullpen before long," Piniella said over the weekend in Milwaukee. "Just give us a little time, and this will get much better from the bullpen side of things."
The Cubs made one move Sunday, recalling Jose Ascanio from Class AAA Iowa to replace the injured Chad Fox.
The biggest issue with the relievers has been the amount of walks they've yielded. They have issued 64 walks in just 90 innings pitched. By comparison, the starting pitchers had given up 70 walks in 185 2/3 innings.
Nothing drives Piniella crazier than relief pitchers that can't or won't throw strikes. Piniella has been after Neal Cotts all year to "trust his stuff" and throw strikes, to little avail. The reliever most recently drawing Piniella's ire has been Aaron Heilman, who was dependable early on. Both could see their roles diminished.
In Milwaukee, Heilman walked Corey Hart before giving up a home run to Ryan Braun on Friday. On Saturday, he walked two more.
Piniella has said more bullpen changes will come when Carlos Zambrano comes off the disabled list sometime next week. The Cubs may move rookie Randy Wells from the rotation to the pen once Zambrano comes back. Jeff Stevens, obtained over the winter in the Mark DeRosa trade, entered Sunday at Class AAA Iowa having not allowed a run in 14 innings to start the season. He's a possibility, either sooner or later.
CUBS 4, BREWERS 2
Sean Marshall, without his best stuff, gutted out five innings and picked up his first win of the year. He gave up both runs on five hits. Alfonso Soriano keyed a four-run third with his 10th homer of the year. Kevin Gregg earned his sixth save.
3B Aramis Ramirez will be in a sling for a week and then work for another three weeks on range-of-motion and strength exercises as he recovers from a dislocated left shoulder, suffered Friday in Milwaukee. Ramirez is likely out two months.
1B Derrek Lee had an MRI Sunday. Lee has been suffering from neck spasms, caused by a bulging disc. He has not started since last Tuesday.
INF/OF Ryan Freel, whom the Cubs obtained Friday in a trade with Baltimore, was supposed to start Saturday, but he was a late lineup scratch with a tight left hamstring. He pinch-hit Sunday, singled and got picked off second base.
LF Alfonso Soriano hit his 10th homer. It marked the fourth time in his career that he has reached 10 homers in a season in 30 or fewer games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 61—Cubs relief pitchers entered the week with 61 walks in 86 innings pitched. To put that into perspective, the starting pitchers had issued 67 walks in 180 2/3 innings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’ve never seen anything quite like this. Every day, it seems to be something different. Just tough it out. What can I say? It just gets frustrating. Every time you put something a little together, something different happens.” --Piniella.
IOWA 9, MEMPHIS 2 (CLASS AAA)
At Des Moines, the Cubs (16-13) out-hit the Redbirds, 11-4, in the victory Sunday. CF Sam Fuld and C Chris Robinson both went 3-for-4 to pace the offense while 3B Matt Camp (1-for-4) and RF Brad Snyder (1-for-3) each homered. RHP Mitch Atkins (2-3) started and picked up the victory, allowing two runs and four hits over seven innings. He struck out six batters and walked one.
PEORIA 5, FORT WAYNE 2 (CLASS A)
At Fort Wayne, Ind., the Chiefs (16-13) collected 12 hits in the victory Sunday. SS Junior Lake (3-for-4, double, RBI) led the offense with three hits while LF Josh Harrison (2-for-5, double), DH Nelson Perez (2-for-4, double) and CF Drew Rundle (2-for-3, solo home run, three RBI) all added two hits. RHP Aaron Shafer (4-1) got the win, going five innings and allowing one run and five hits. He struck out three batters and walked three.