The Cubs optioned reliever Dillon Maples to their South Bend training site Thursday, recalling swingman Colin Rea.
Maples had a tough outing Wednesday against the Reds, walking four in the seventh inning while tallying no outs. He was charged for three runs (two earned), avoiding more damage as Duane Underwood Jr. induced an inning-ending triple play after Maples exited.
The Cubs bullpen overall has had a rough go of it early, currently holding the worst ERA in MLB (9.64) and allowing the most walks (20 in 18 2/3 innings). They've particularly struggled this week against the Reds, allowing 13 hits, 15 walks and 15 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings.
"I'm looking for somebody to get outs, throw strikes. Way too many walks from down there," manager David Ross said postgame Wednesday. "Some guys have gotta step up and that's some of the stuff that we're finding out here early on, is who's a guy that we can bring in in a big situation and pitch.
"We can match them up as much as we want but guys still have to come in and throw strikes. From a (former) catcher’s standpoint, it’s frustrating to keep giving free passes and you’re going to get into trouble at some point. So, we’ve just got to get better.”
Ross said he talked to Maples after Wednesday's game and the 28-year-old understands he has to get better. He added that quality is a powerful thing and a great place to start for Maples, opposed to him making excuses and blaming others for his struggles.
"It’s just about figuring out what really clicks for him,” Ross said Thursday. “It could be something a player says, it could be something a coach says, could be some information he finds on our technology or video.
“But I'm not ready to give up on Dillon Maples. His stuff is real. I just think it may be taking a little bit longer than sometimes we want."
Rea, who was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year last season, last pitched in the majors with Miami in 2016. In 26 career MLB games (25 starts), he holds a 4.69 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.
In 26 starts with Iowa last season, Rea went 14-4 with a 3.95 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He struck out 120 and walked 60 in 148 innings.
“We’ll put him in that group of somebody that can give us some length out of the bullpen. He’s stretched out, so we’ve got multiple options with him," Ross said Thursday. "Probably a guy to give us some length and he’s a strike thrower, so we can use him either ahead or behind.”