Grant Balfour on Cubs' radar in search for bullpen reinforcements


Grant Balfour on Cubs' radar in search for bullpen reinforcements

Grant Balfour is one reliever on their radar as the Cubs look into reinforcements for their bullpen.

The Balfour connection is obvious since the Australian right-hander used to play for Cubs manager Joe Maddon. The Tampa Bay Rays officially released Balfour this week and will be responsible for what’s left of his $7 million salary this season.

Balfour emerged as a key piece to Maddon’s worst-to-first team that shocked the baseball world and made it all the way to the 2008 World Series. Balfour notched 38 saves for the Oakland A’s in 2013 and has pitched in seven playoff series throughout his career.

But Balfour is also 37 years old and struggled in his return to Tampa Bay last season (2-6, 4.91 ERA). The Rays designated him for assignment after only six appearances this month. He gave up three runs on three hits and four walks – with no strikeouts – in 4.1 innings.

[MORE: Maddon, Cubs clear of tampering charges]

The Cubs bullpen – which appeared to be a game-changing strength on Opening Night – has been exposed as hard-throwing right-handers Justin Grimm (forearm) and Neil Ramirez (shoulder) recover from injuries at the team’s Arizona complex.

A one-run game on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field got out of hand as Gonzalez Germen and Phil Coke combined to give up six runs during an 8-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

General manager Jed Hoyer said Grimm threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and could pitch in a simulated game by the weekend. Hoyer indicated Ramirez is feeling good and playing catch but hasn’t progressed to throwing off the mound again yet.

The Cubs are not interested in chasing Rafael Soriano, a Scott Boras client still out there on the open market with 207 career saves. The super-agent is waiting for maximum leverage and at that price the Cubs probably won’t be the desperate team looking for a quick fix.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Soriano, 35, is coming off a two-year, $28 million contract with the Washington Nationals. The right-hander saved 32 games last season but struggled after the All-Star break (6.48 ERA).

The Cubs bullpen has blown four saves but the overall numbers still look decent (5-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). It’s also skewed when Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon are such a devastating endgame combination (two runs allowed plus 20 strikeouts through 19.1 innings). Lefty Zac Rosscup has also impressed during his eight appearances (1-0, 1.04 ERA, two holds) since his promotion from Triple-A Iowa.

One internal option could eventually be James Russell, who returned to the organization on a minor-league deal after getting released by the Atlanta Braves near the end of spring training.  

Russell hasn’t given up a run or a walk through 7.2 innings at Iowa while striking out 11. The 29-year-old lefty appears to be motivated to get back to Wrigley Field.

Former Cubs outfielder Jim Edmonds goes to hospital to get tested for COVID-19 after showing 'severe symptoms'

Former Cubs outfielder Jim Edmonds goes to hospital to get tested for COVID-19 after showing 'severe symptoms'

Former Cubs outfielder Jim Edmonds went to a hospital to get tested for COVID-19 and is showing what he described as “severe symptoms.”

Edmonds shared the news in an Instagram story on Saturday. In one of the videos in the story, Edmonds said he tested positive for pneumonia, but is still awaiting results on the COVID-19 test. 

“Held off as long as I could,” he wrote in one of the posts. “I thought I was tough enough to get through. This virus is no joke.”

The 49-year-old won eight Gold Gloves and was a four-time All-Star. During his playing career, Edmonds was most known for his time with the Angels and Cardinals, but spent part of the 2008 season with the Cubs. In 85 games with the Cubs, he hit 19 home runs with a .937 OPS. He has been an analyst on Cardinals pregame and postgame shows since 2013.

Javier Báez' ambidexterity and other facts about the Cubs superstar shortstop

Javier Báez' ambidexterity and other facts about the Cubs superstar shortstop

Javier Báez has endeared himself to Cubs and baseball fans alike with his wicked defensive skills, daredevil baserunning and powerful bat. Once a utility player of sorts, Báez earned the starting shortstop job and spot in the heart of the Cubs order.

As El Mago’s legend continues to grow on the field, here are some things to know about him.

1. Báez was born in Puerto Rico in 1992 and moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 2005 with his mother, sister and three brothers. He learned English by teaching himself words (even if he wasn’t sure the meaning) and picking up words from friends.

2. Báez throws and bats right-handed, but he’s a natural lefty. This helps explain why he’s one of the best taggers in the game, making seemingly impossible plays.

Last season, Báez took a left-handed at-bat during a blowout win over the Reds. To make the situation even more unique, Reds catcher Kyle Farmer was on the mound. Báez flew out, but his swing (per usual) was vicious.

3. Báez is the cover athlete for MLB The Show 20. Much like in real-life, Báez’ skills in the game are electric.

4. Báez and his wife, Irmarie, got married in January 2019. The couple had their first son, Adrian Javier Báez Marquez, in June 2018, and he looks like a baseball superstar in the making.

That bat flip, though. He’s taking after dad already.


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