Cubs

Cubs shake up pitching staff, planning to stretch out Adam Warren

Cubs shake up pitching staff, planning to stretch out Adam Warren

The Cubs made a bunch of roster moves Tuesday to shuffle up their pitching staff.

Clayton Richard is headed to the disabled list with a blister/nail issue on the middle finger of his throwing hand and Adam Warren was sent down to Triple-A Iowa to stretch out as a starting pitcher.

The Cubs called up left-hander Gerardo Concepcion and righty Spencer Patton as reinforcements for the big-league bullpen, joining Carl Edwards Jr., who arrived in Chicago Monday when the Cubs put Dexter Fowler on the disabled list.

When Warren came to the Cubs from the New York Yankees in the Starlin Castro deal, they envisioned the 28-year-old right-hander as a starter at some point down the line. 

After making 25 appearances out of the bullpen with the Cubs, he will get that opportunity in the coming weeks. 

The plan is for Warren to make two starts in the minors after throwing 51 pitches Sunday against the Pirates. The Cubs will have him start one game before the All-Star Break, but don't have a set gameplan for how the rotation will line up after the midseason break.

The idea is for Warren to help provide some relief for a Cubs starting rotation that will be taxed during a stretch of 24 games in 24 days, as the Cubs do not have an off-day until the All-Star Break.

"For Adam, we had talked about that during spring training about the potential to have him start," Joe Maddon said. "This stretch we're on right now with starters not getting any kind of blow, we thought it was the most optimal moment to attempt to do something like this."

Maddon was not ready to make Warren's exact plan public, but did admit the swingman has a specific schedule they hope to stick to that would include one pre-break start.

Maddon also said the Cubs' big lead in the division (11.5 games entering play Tuesday night against the Cardinals) had no factor on stretching Warren out, but the veteran manager has talked almost daily about his desire to keep his guys fresh for a potential World Series run.

"Between rainouts and off-days, a lot of our guys have pitched with an extra day's rest," Maddon said. "Now we're going through this stretch where they're not. I'd have to say that our starters have been pretty successful in this first half and a lot of them have had the benefit of an extra day for a variety of different reasons.

"So let's keep it going. This is where it gets a little bit sticky. Guys get into this time of year, leading into August and September and you really want to make sure they are healthy and well, so we thought it was the right thing to do."

Richard was a revelation with the Cubs late last season, but has struggled mightily in 2016, posting a 7.30 ERA and 2.189 WHIP.

Over his last eight appearances, the 32-year-old southpaw has surrendered 11 hits, seven runs (five earned) and three walks in just four innings (an 11.25 ERA).

Concepcion, 24, signed with the Cubs out of Cuba before the 2012 season and has mostly struggled in the minors before figuring out this season and posting a 1.29 ERA and 0.971 WHIP in 22 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Patton, 28, spent a couple days in Chicago earlier this season and has been dominant in the minors with a 1.04 ERA, 1.038 WHIP and a whopping 42 strikeouts in 26 innings in the minors.

Cubs bullpen gets another reinforcement with Craig Kimbrel activated

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USA TODAY

Cubs bullpen gets another reinforcement with Craig Kimbrel activated

The Cubs bullpen has had its share of struggles in recent days, but the team’s new closer is coming back from the injured list.

 

Craig Kimbrel was activated off the IL ahead of Sunday’s game against the Pirates. The game will be played in Williamsport, Pa., as the Little League Classic.

Kimbrel took the spot of Duane Underwood Jr., who heads back to Triple-A Iowa. Outfielder Mark Zagunis also joined the Cubs roster as the 26th man for Sunday’s game.

Kimbrel joined the Cubs as a free agent in the middle of the season and debuted on June 27. He made 14 appearances before going to the IL with right knee inflammation. He last pitched on Aug. 3.

In 12 2/3 innings, Kimbrel has 17 strikeouts, eight walks and 13 hits for a 5.68 ERA. He has nine saves.

The Cubs suffered back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday with the bullpen blowing late leads. Three of the team’s most experienced relievers, Kimbrel, Brandon Kintzler and Steve Cishek were all on the IL at the same time. Kintzler was activated Friday, but promptly blew a lead in Pittsburgh on Friday in his first game back.

Kimbrel’s return gives Joe Maddon another option in the bullpen after going through a rough stretch with relievers.

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis' game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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