The Bullpen Has Been Worked

The bullpen appeared to be the Cubs' Achilles' heel entering the season, and so far, it's done little to dispel that notion.

Entering the week, the bullpen had a record of 3-3 with an ERA of 3.32 and three saves in six chances. In 38 innings, Cubs relievers have given up 27 hits while walking 25.

Lou Piniella had a potential problem heading into Sunday night's rained-out game in part because the Cubs played 11 innings Saturday and also in part because he is running the risk of overusing his key relievers.

Right-hander Aaron Heilman worked three straight days, Thursday-Sunday. Righty Kevin Gregg, whom Piniella wanted to avoid using for more than one inning because his surgically repaired knee acts up, volunteered to go two innings Saturday and turned in two scoreless frames.

Righty Carlos Marmol, who led the team with 82 appearances last year, worked back-to-back days, Friday and Saturday. Over the Cubs' first 11 games, Marmol had worked in seven.

The Cubs are trying to keep Rule 5 right-hander David Patton on the roster, and Piniella has picked his spots with veteran Luis Vizcaino, who had an up and down spring.

CARDINALS AT CUBS, PPD.: Sunday's game was postponed due to rain. It will be played as part of a day-night doubleheader on July 12.


--LHP Sean Marshall will be available out of the bullpen for the first two games of the Cincinnati series, according to Piniella. Marshall is slated to start Saturday at St. Louis, but the Cubs need an extra lefty in the pen to bolster things with Neal Cotts struggling.

--RHP Angel Guzman earned his first major league victory in Saturday's 7-5, 11-inning victory over St. Louis. Guzman, a highly touted prospect since the Cubs signed him out of Venezuela in 1999, has battled shoulder and elbow problems for much of his career. He broke camp this year as a reliever. His major league debut came in 2006, and he entered this year with no wins and seven losses.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Cubs batters had walked at least four times in a game seven times this season entering the week. That should come as no surprise. The Cubs led the NL in walks and on-base percentage last year. Kosuke Fukudome was leading the way with nine walks, with Mike Fontenot and Alfonso Soriano each having eight.

HE SAID IT: "Tony's not the commissioner. He's a good friend and a heck of a manager, but he's not the commissioner of baseball -- not yet anyway." -- Piniella on Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who wondered why the Cubs got away with criticizing umpires.


The Cubs went huffing and puffing into this week and were glad to have a rainout Sunday night. Their bullpen has been overtaxed and, in some ways, under-performing. An extra-inning game Saturday didn't help. Too many walks have hurt the bullpen, as has the starters' failure to go deep in most games this season. Offensively, the Cubs are hitting well, but they should benefit from the return of RF Milton Bradley this week. Bradley did not start for a week because of a strained right groin.


--RHP Rich Harden will open the series against Cincinnati, as scheduled, Tuesday night. LHP Ted Lilly, who was supposed to start Sunday's rained-out game, will be pushed back to Wednesday. Lilly has been fighting a cold, but he said he was ready to go Sunday.

--Bradley may be able to start Tuesday. Bradley has not started since April 12, when he strained his right groin in Milwaukee. He also is appealing a two-game suspension for allegedly bumping umpire Larry Vanover, who ejected him from Thursday's game for arguing a called third strike. Bradley is 1-for-19 (.053) in eight games.

--1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir was slated to start in place of Derrek Lee at first base Sunday night. Hoffpauir, a 29-year-old rookie, is off to a 5-for-15 (.333) start with two doubles and three RBIs. He also has played right field creditably in the absence of Bradley.

--The Sports XChange



At Des Moines, the Cubs (7-4) tallied 14 hits Sunday. Five Cubs players finished with two hits or more, including 1B Jake Fox, who was 2-for-5 with his seventh home run. Fox has hit safely in his first 11 games to open the season and is batting .478. Entering the week, he led the Pacific Coast League in batting average, home runs, and RBIs (22). RHP Mitch Atkins (1-1) started and got back on track for Iowa, tossing 7 1/3 innings and allowing two runs and four hits. He struck out six batters and walked one.


At Lakeland, Fla., 3B Marquez Smith (1-for-4) hit his third home run for the Cubs' (4-6) only offense in a losing effort Sunday. Smith is batting .286 and has hit safely in his first eight games to open the season. His three home runs and 11 RBIs rank first and second, respectively, in the Florida State League. LHP James Leverton (0-1) received the loss, allowing four runs and six hits in five innings. He walked three batters and recorded one strikeout.


--Staff Reports

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