ATLANTA — While other playoff contenders scramble to acquire relief pitching before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, the Cubs are on track to add a reinforcement to their bullpen by as early as next week.
Right-hander Rafael Soriano, who signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in early June, was promoted to the Iowa Cubs from Double-A Tennessee and struck out the side in a scoreless inning Thursday against Memphis, St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate. Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Soriano’s fastball has touched 94 over his last few appearances — he pitched in back-to-back games July 12 and 13 — and he’s received “nothing but good reports” on the 34-year-old.
“I know Rafael really well, the numbers I’m hearing are really good numbers,” Maddon said. “I know when he’s throwing like that, he’s feeling pretty good.”
Over six minor league innings, Soriano hasn’t allowed an earned run while striking out seven and allowing four hits and three walks. He saved 32 games for the Washington Nationals a year ago and saved 40 or more games three times, the first of which came under Maddon with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.
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The Cubs began the unofficial second half of the season with eight relievers — Hector Rondon, Edwin Jackson, Jason Motte, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Travis Wood and James Russell — meaning there isn’t an obvious candidate for Soriano to replace. It’s a call Maddon said he’s happy he won’t have to make.
“Of course it’ll be a tough decision,” Maddon said, “and it’s not going to be mine.”