On his pre-game radio show Monday night, Lou Piniella said he felt the need to start cutting back on the number of appearances by his two ace relievers, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, and start finding opportunities to use Jon Lieber and Chad Fox.
As you know if you watched the 7-2 win over the Astros, Lou went 2-for-4:
Wood did get to rest, and Lieber did get to pitch (1 2/3 scoreless IP in relief of starter and winner Ted Lilly). But Fox remained idle, and Marmol was forced into action in the home half of the eighth, and it was nasty duty, at that. The Cubs were up 5-2, the Astros had men at first and third, none out, and Tejada, Berkman, and Lee were due up. A pop out, a strikeout, and a ground out later, the Astros were taking the field, and the lead remained safe (even safer after Aramis Ramirez's two-run homer in the top of the ninth). Another Marmol masterpiece.
Speaking of Ramirez, he and Derrek Lee went a combined 5-for-10 with 3 RBI on Monday night. This was a big turnaround from the weekend series against the Pirates, in which R. and L. went a combined 0-for-22. In fact, over the course of the just concluded homestand, the Cubs' two big sluggers didn't do much slugging at all.
Ramirez hit .257 with no homers and 4 RBI, Lee hit .171 with an OPS of 556, and yet the Cubs won 8 of 10.
Of course, over that same 10-game stretch, Alfonso Soriano hit .524/1.150/1674 (OBP/SLG/OPS) with 7 HR and 16 RBI, and lifted his batting average from .191 to .296. And Mark DeRosa hit .514/.645/1159. Fukudome, Soto, and Theriot, while posting less spectacular numbers, all held their own, so the offensive falloff by Ramirez and Lee didn't pose much of a problem.
Depth. It's good.
Tuesday morning update: So much for Chad Fox helping to shoulder the bullpen load. Fox has been placed on the 15-Day Disabled List after developing elbow tenderness. According to the Tribune...
Fox said trainer Mark O'Neal told him "it could take a week, it could take two weeks, it could take two months. Who knows?"Fox's spot will be taken by Jose Ascanio, whom the Cubs acquired this past off-season from Atlanta in exchange for Will Ohman. Ascanio had a 2.29 ERA and 9 saves in 16 appearances for the I-Cubs.
And speaking of the I-Cubs, they've placed Rich Hill on the 7-Day DL as a result of back spasms that caused him to be pulled from a start last Friday, but Lou Piniella doesn't think the back spasms are serious, or maybe even the real issue at all. Again, from the Tribune...
“I don’t think it’s serious,” Piniella said. “Probably more of a mental break than anything, I’d assume. That’s just my assumption. [The break] may not be bad. It might be the best tonic of all. But I haven’t heard anything wrong of a serious nature, anything fundamentally wrong with his back.”