Cubs

How Joe Maddon plans to unleash Aroldis Chapman in Cubs bullpen

How Joe Maddon plans to unleash Aroldis Chapman in Cubs bullpen

When the Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman, the dream end result would be the left-hander closing out the final game of the 2016 World Series.

While that is the most likely solution (if the Cubs get that far, of course), Joe Maddon wouldn't lock anything in right now.

The Cubs manager doesn't live by etching relief roles in stone, preferring to employ his best pitchers at the most opportune spots, whether that is in the ninth inning or not.

So with the most dominant closer in the game now in the fold, Maddon wasn't ready to just move the rest of the Cubs pitchers down an inning and leave it at that.

"I do things with leverage moments. It really opens up the sixth, seventh and the eighth [innings]," Maddon said while rattling off the options at his disposal including former Cubs closer Hector Rondon and top setup man Pedro Strop. "It's incredible. It's like a lineup. 

"You throw one more guy in the lineup and what it does with the rest of the group. Same thing happens with the bullpen. You put the anchor at the back side and then it really permits you to do other stuff."

Maddon is one of the top bullpen managers in the game and now has plenty of relief options to work with. 

Beyond Chapman, Rondon and Strop, there's also the emergency of young Carl Edwards Jr., Joe Nathan's comeback tour, new left-hander Mike Montgomery and then bullpen stalwarts Travis Wood and Justin Grimm.

Maddon admitted he stresses more about the Cubs bullpen each day than anything else, but that was prior to acquiring a guy who has saved 165 games over the last five seasons while posting a 1.91 ERA and ridiculous 15.7 strikeout per nine ratio.

[RELATED: Aroldis Chapman trade gives Cubs intimidating closer]

Plus, the emergence of another trustworthy option out of the bullpen alleviates the stress placed upon the rest of the relievers, keeping them fresh down the stretch.

"He's the kind of guy that permits you not to run other people down and then possibly the trickle down effect," Maddon said. "It's not a problem. It's a great situation to be in. 

"My perspective as the manager, being the steward of this group, I have to try to figure this out the best I can."

The Cubs have struggled to find consistency from their group of left-handed relievers all season, but the arrival of Chapman helps ensure there's an option Maddon feels comfortable with in October in case lefties like Bryce Harper come up in a big moment late in the game.

The Cubs also don't have to worry about facing Chapman in the postseason now, flipping the momentum to their side.

"Just think about it: You never want to see him coming into the game when the other team has the lead," Maddon said. "Now, all of a sudden, we have the edge on our side. It's kind of fun to have.

"What we're talking about here right now is theory. It all looks good on paper and I believe it's gonna work out. But you also have to go out there and perform on a daily basis.

"He's good. We're gonna put him in there in the right moments and hopefully it's gonna make everybody else running better. You never want to face him in the ninth inning."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: The state of the Sox and Darvish duels Kap

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: The state of the Sox and Darvish duels Kap

Leila Rahimi, Scott Podsednik, and Doug Glanville cover everything Chicago baseball in a jam-packed show. First, Jason Benetti joins the show to reminisce about his broadcast with Bill Walton, Lucas Giolito's dominance and Eloy Jimenez's hip issue. Then, the trio discusses Yoan Moncada's return, the Cubs building momentum after a sweep of the Giants, Yu Darvish's back-and-forth with David Kaplan, and where the White Sox rebuild stands entering the final 6 weeks of 2019.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs have an 'ace' in their rotation?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs have an 'ace' in their rotation?

David Haugh, Patrick Finley and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - A night after winning a 12-11 slugfest, Kyle Hendricks and 3 relievers combine for a 1-0 shutout as the winning streak goes to 5.

4:00 - Kap recounts his Twitter discussion with Yu Darvish after Wednesday night's game.

10:00 - Right now, who's the Cubs ace? The guys debate.

11:30 - Luis Robert is killing it in Charlotte. Will he be a September callup?

16:00 - Matt Nagy defends the Bears' kicker search after a critical Sports Illustrated article.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: