Bullpen Concerns: Will Grimm and Ramirez Be Ready in a Week?

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grimm 66Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter. Spring Training games don’t matter.

That’s what I keep telling myself.

After watching half the bullpen implode this past week, hopefully the pen will kick it in soon and I can come up with a new mantra.

Hector Rondon

Before Sunday’s game, he had a 22.09 ERA in 3.2 innings. After one perfect inning, it dropped down to 17.36. I know that for many relievers, Spring Training is a process. They work on some things in an outing and sometimes they get shelled for it. They slowly work their way up to the regular season. For Hector Rondon. He is slowly building it up. He began by throwing in the low to mid 90s. Normally he throws 95-97. In his last outing, he was at the bottom end of that and 94-95. According to Rondon, he feels good. He says that he is almost ready. He just needs to add a couple of clicks to the fastball and get it down in the zone more.

I am glad he feels comfortable. To me, nothing is more frustrating as a fan to see the starter go 6 or 7 innings and hand it over to the bullpen only to see them blow the lead.

The Main Culprits of My Worry

Neil Ramirez – 15.75 ERA in 4.0 innings.

Justin Grimm – 17.18 ERA in 3.2 innings.

Both Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez got roughed up on Saturday. For Grimm, his outing was a concern as he gave up 4 ERs in 2/3 of an inning. But for Ramirez, something is not quite right. He did not even record an out and gave up 5 runs. I know the Cubs are going to take 8 relievers out of spring training. Right now, Ramirez has not earned that eighth spot but will likely get it rather than risk being sent down because he is out of options.

neil 65It’s a shame, too. Ramirez has nasty stuff but  it seems he has spent half his  career on the DL. When he is on, his breaking stuff is the best in the pen. But it’s not on. And he’s not on the DL. What’s wrong? Is it just stiffness? Is it rustiness? Do Bosio and Maddon think he will come out of this funk? My mind is wondering and hoping that this isn’t a problem when the season begins in one week.

As of today, Pedro Strop has only thrown two innings, and looked good doing so, Clayton Richard six, Adam Warren five, Travis Wood nine, and Trevor Cahill five. I can relax a bit knowing that there is still  one week until the season starts to get this problem fixed. That’s enough time to do it, but is it pushing it too much?

However, there has to be a plan B in place if Grimm and Ramirez aren’t ready.

I think Rondon will be ready to go when the season starts. But Ramirez looks lost out on the mound; Grimm as well. I don’t think the Cubs will risk trying to sneak Ramirez through waivers. He has too much promise for a team not to take a chance on him. The same for Grimm.

Plan B Part 1

With the two of them taking up two 25 man spots, how do you hide them until they are ready? Do Cahill, Warren, Wood, and Richard go two-three innings a pop? Do these four take the 6th – 7th innings over and pitch 2-3 innings an outing? That only leaves Strop and Rondon only for the end of games. I don’t think that is plausible, at all. The Cubs need fresh bodies every day. Their schedule in April is pretty weak, but the starters can’t go seven innings just yet. Five to six innings in the first week is usually the norm.

Plan B Part 2

Brandon Gomes, Stephen Fife, Spencer Patton, Manny Parra, and Ryan Williams have all had good springs. Aaron Brooks (who I think short arms the ball a bit too much) and Drew Ruczinski have been adequate. The Cubs spent most of December building up this bullpen for such an occasion. Now, the time is here. But if you send down Grimm or Ramirez, you risk losing them, something I don’t think the Cubs are willing to do.

On the other hand, having a good spring is no arbiter for success once the regular season begins. Grimm and Ramirez have shown they can pitch at the major league level. The others have not.

In the next two weeks, the Cubs are going to have to choose two relievers for the 25 man roster. Will it be Grimm and Ramirez? Will it be Gomes and Patton? Or Willams and Patton? Or Williams and Gomes? Or will it be Grimm and Patton? I think this last question is the most likely scenario.

I honestly don’t feel confident in Ramirez’s return – something might be seriously wrong with him. l think Grimm will pull out of his funk. I cannot say that about Ramirez. Something is not quite right. I am not holding my breath in consternation, but I will be patiently waiting. A 15 day DL would be a relief, a 60 day DL stint would be devastating after losing him for most of last season.


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