Dillon Maples

Cubs see another reliever go down as Steve Cishek hits the injured list

Cubs see another reliever go down as Steve Cishek hits the injured list

The Cubs bullpen has seen better days.

Saturday, the Cubs placed right-hander Steve Cishek on the 10-day injured list with right hip inflammation. In a corresponding move, the team recalled Dillon Maples from Triple-A Iowa.

Cishek was one of Joe Maddon’s most reliable relievers before the All-Star break, as the 33-year-old posted a 2.75 ERA in 40 appearances. He’s had a tough going over the last three weeks or so, allowing runs in four of his last eight appearances. He holds a 10.50 ERA over that span, surrendering 11 hits — three of which have left the ballpark.

Many might attribute Cishek’s struggles to his usage, which isn’t the most far-fetched argument. A year after leading the Cubs in appearances with 80, Cishek’s 54 appearances this season is No. 1 on the team. In fact, he’s appeared in 14 of the Cubs 26 games post-All-Star break, tops on the team.

Perhaps a short stint on the injured list could bode well for Cishek, allowing him to reset and get a bit of a breather. However, his injury comes at a bad time for the Cubs bullpen, as Cishek is the fourth Cubs reliever to hit the shelf this week alone.

Closer Craig Kimbrel landed on the 10-day injured list on Monday with right knee inflammation, with the reliable Brandon Kintzler joining him there on Tuesday with right pec inflammation. Plus, the Cubs placed lefty Kyle Ryan on the bereavement list Friday, recalling Alec Mills in his place. According to MLB rules, Ryan has to be away from the team for a minimum of three games, but he could be out upwards of seven.

Fortunately for the Cubs, each of Kimbrel, Kintzler and Ryan could be back soon. 

Kimbrel initially said that he only planned to miss the minimum 10 days while on the injured list, which would put him in line to be activated on Thursday. The Cubs certainly won't rush him back, though, as they need him to be healthy while they battle for a postseason spot over the next two months. 

In the meantime, the Cubs have to figure out who will close games while the aforementioned relievers rehab. Maddon said that it's "committee time" after Kimbrel landed on the injured list, but Cishek was likely to get the first crack at a save opportunity. Without him, who pitches in the ninth inning is more unclear than ever, with Pedro Strop's recent struggles only clouding things further.

Be that as it may, the Cubs bullpen looks something like this, as things currently stand:

Pedro Strop
Tyler Chatwood
Rowan Wick
Derek Holland
David Phelps
Duane Underwood Jr.
Alec Mills
Dillon Maples

Maples is making his fourth stint with the Cubs this season. The 27-year-old holds a 5.63 ERA in 10 big league appearances, though he's struck out 13 batters in eight innings. He has walked 10 batters over that stretch, however.

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Cubs place Cole Hamels on injured list, designate Carlos González for assignment

Cubs place Cole Hamels on injured list, designate Carlos González for assignment

The Cubs will be without their most consistent starting pitchers for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, the Cubs placed left-hander Cole Hamels on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain. The team also designated outfielder Carlos González for assignment, promoting relievers Dillon Maples and Rowan Wick from Triple-A Iowa in corresponding moves.

Hamels exited Friday's game against the Reds ahead of the second inning after experiencing discomfort in his side throwing warmup pitches. Manager Joe Maddon said Hamels would be placed on the injured list with an oblique strain, making Saturday's announcement a mere formality.

This marks the second time in three seasons that Hamels has suffered an oblique injury. He missed nearly two months in 2017 with a right oblique strain, though he told Mark Gonzales from the Chicago Tribune that he doesn't think the injury will be as bad this time around.

Be that as it may, Hamels will likely be out for an extended period of time, which leaves the Cubs without 40 percent of their Opening Day starting rotation. Kyle Hendricks is currently on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, and while he could return before the All-Star break, his return date not set in stone.

Without Hamels and Hendricks, Adbert Alzolay and Tyler Chatwood will be fixtures in the starting rotation for the foreseeable future. The Cubs already announced that Alzolay will start Monday against the Pirates and that Chatwood will return to the bullpen. Now, Chatwood will likely return to starting, at least until Hendricks returns.

González is somewhat of a roster casualty. Since Hamels only pitched an inning last night, the Cubs were forced to stretch their bullpen out, using Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, Kyle Ryan and Steve Cishek. Chatwood, Strop and possibly Kimbrel were unavailable on Friday, hence the need for Maples and Wick to come up from Triple-A.

At the same time, González has struggled in big league action with the Indians and Cubs this season. The 33-year-old holds a .200/.289/.283 slashline in 145 at-bats, including a .175/.306/.300 line in 40 at-bats with the Cubs.

Maples hasn't allowed a run in 5 2/3 MLB innings this season, striking out 10 batters compared to nine walks. He has struggled with command in his young MLB career, walking 20 batters in 16 1/3 career innings. However, he's walked just two batters in his last 5 2/3 innings at Iowa, striking out 12 batters over that span. 

This marks Wick's third stint with the Cubs this season. The hard-throwing right-hander has allowed just one earned runs in 3 2/3 innings with the Cubs this season, striking out six batters. He holds a 2.22 ERA in 28 1/3 innings with Iowa this season, striking out 34 batters compared to eight walks.

The Cubs now have just three bench players available Saturday against the Reds — David Bote, Victor Caratini and Daniel Descalso. 

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Joe Maddon does not hold back on missed strike call: 'That's what kind of pisses me off'

Joe Maddon does not hold back on missed strike call: 'That's what kind of pisses me off'

ST. LOUIS - Friday night was an easy revisionist history moment for Cubs nation.

The result wasn't what they wanted — a 2-1 loss to the rival Cardinals in 10 innings — and it was easy to play back the tape and see where it all went wrong.

For one thing, the Cubs went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and their only run on the evening was a sacrifice fly from starting pitcher Yu Darvish in the second inning.

But there was also a sequence in the decisive bottom of the 10th inning where Cubs reliever Dillon Maples looks to have clearly retired Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader on strikes, only to see Bader trot down to first base with a walk.

This was the final pitch of the at-bat, called a ball by home plate umpire Laz Diaz, even though it clearly looked to be in the zone, both by the naked eye and the NBC Sports Chicago K Zone:

It should've been Strike 3 and the second out of the inning. Instead, it put runners at first and second with only one out. Maples walked the next guy to load the bases before Joe Maddon made a pitching change and Steve Cishek gave up the game-ending hit to Matt Carpenter a few pitches later.

After the game, Maddon brought up the missed strike call unprompted while also discussing the lack of offense that has gone hitless in its last 23 plate appearances with runners in scoring position:

"We really need to do a better job of driving in runs," Maddon said. "We wouldn't even be in that position at the end. I guess it's like 0 for the last 23, apparently. I didn't even know it was that bad. We gotta do a better job right there. Had opportunities early, they kinda went away. Our pitching was outstanding. 

"And even Dillon Maples was outstanding, too. The fact that he was placed in that situation after he clearly struck Bader out, which would've totally turned into a different moment for him. I totally believe that. That's the kind of thing that bums me out. Of course, listen, we were not good offensively, granted. But to have pitches like that taken away in a crucial moment, now my guy's gotta go home and feel bad about himself tonight, which I don't like whatsoever. 

"And it wasn't even a borderline pitch. It was a strike. That's the kinda stuff you wanna see something done about. And I'm still not advocating electronic strike zone. I'm just advocating let's go. Let's go. 

"You cannot miss that pitch in that situation. Here's a guy that's ascending to the major leagues as a relief pitcher, doing a wonderful job, does his job and does not get rewarded for it. That's what kind of pisses me off, quite frankly."

Maples wasn't so quick to blame the umpire, even though he clearly was frustrated with the call (you can see his reaction on the video above).

"I just made a close pitch and obviously didn't get the call I wanted, so I was a little upset," he said. "You gotta move on."

This is Maples' second stint in the big leagues this season after making three separate trips to the majors from Triple-A Iowa last year. He's still trying to find his way in "The Show," but Friday should've been a redeeming night for him. 

Instead, he has to worry about trying to move on mentally from another tough moment and he might not get too many more opportunities in the majors right now with Pedro Strop nearing a return.

The Cubs, meanwhile, enter June having dropped six of their last eight games.