The brick wall by the Cubs bullpen has a pharmacy’s logo on it this season, part of the team’s long-range plan to generate revenue streams at Wrigley Field by any means necessary.
It only makes sense, considering the porous Cubs bullpen has been a leading cause for thousands of painkiller prescriptions over the years.
But after a rough start to April, the Cubs have been encouraged by the current makeup of their bullpen, especially since the arrival of Kevin Gregg allowed manager Dale Sveum to install his closer-by-committee plan.
Sveum believes the relievers pitch better when they don’t know exactly when they’ll be used.
“Keep you on your toes,” he said Monday before a 5-3 victory over the Padres. “Everybody from that fifth inning is on call at any time.”
Gregg came on in the eighth with the tying runs on second and third and escaped the jam to preserve the lead. He stayed in to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth as the Cubs got their fifth win in seven games.
Cody Ransom had two RBIs against the team that released him after only 11 at-bats, including the go-ahead single with two outs during the two-run sixth.
Though they might not buy into the idea they’re better off spending the first five innings wondering if they’ll pitch the ninth, the “College of Closers” is all-in on Sveum’s plan.
Does it really help?
“That’s Dale’s opinion,” Gregg said with a laugh. “That’s fine. If we win, then it doesn’t matter how it happens. The bottom line is winning, and the bottom line is making sure everyone down there is successful.”
Do they get a heads-up at all as to when they might be used?
“Not yet,” Gregg said. “That’s the way he’s going to run it. That’s the way we’re going to deal with it.”
Sveum doesn’t know how long it will work, but he’s not really thinking that far ahead.
“I’m not going to say it’s a fix-all or you don’t really want to name a closer (eventually),” he said. “But you definitely don’t want to rock the boat when things are going good in that back end of the bullpen when everybody is healthy and ready to go that night. It could be one of four guys. It just depends on the matchups.”
Jeff Samardzija failed in his fifth attempt to win his second game, lasting only five innings. He threw two wild pitches in the first inning, including one that brought home Everth Cabrera from third.
The Cubs answered off Clayton Richard in the second on back-to-back home runs by Scott Hairston and Ransom, and they made it 3-1 on Darwin Barney’s RBI double in the fourth.
Samardzija loaded the bases on a single and two walks in the fifth before giving up a two-run single to Yonder Alonso, tying the score at 3-3. But Ransom and Barney drove in runs in the sixth, and the bullpen made it hold.