By Todd Johnson
With the arrival or Brian Duensing in Chicago, the Cubs’ bullpen now contains two actual left-handed relievers and Koji Uehara, whose stats versus lefties make him appear to be left-handed, even though he is a righty. With Duensing at 34 and Uehara at 42, the thought of injury is not far away from my mind. In fact, Duensing just came off the DL. Do the Cubs just ride with these two all year? To me, it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Based on the roster makeup this year, I thought the Cubs would go out and get another lefty reliever at some point during this summer. I think that’s a good way to look at it. In the meantime, the organization would try and develop one, just in case of an injury. Maybe Theo and Jed thought that one of the pitchers they signed at the winter relief pitcher extravaganza would pull through. Maybe they thought they would give their signings and prospects a few months to earn that coveted spot or two.
Here is what the Cubs have at each level when it comes to left-handed relievers.
Iowa: Jack Leathersich, David Rollins, Rob Zastryzny
Rollins is standing head and shoulders above the other two right now, who have been knocked around pretty good in just 10 days. Rollins has yet to allow run in three appearances. When it comes to Zastryzny, he is having trouble locating. Last year was such a big year for him as he changed his grip on his cutter which revolutionized his arsenal. Hopefully, he can turn it around and make it back to Chicago before the All-Star break. I thought he was excellent last year and was surprised he did not make the club.
Tennessee: Gerardo Concepcion
Concepcion made it all the way to Chicago and had a cuppa coffee in the show. He didn’t stay there, but he did have the step to get there. This year it appears he’s going to have to go through two levels to get back to Chicago. He needs to get his fastball back up to 93 and to continue to be aggressive. So far at Tennessee, it is not going well. He’s made for appearances with a 5.40 ERA.
Myrtle Beach: Jordan Minch, Tommy Thorpe, John Williamson
I really like to watch Jordan Minch pitch. He is deadly against left-handers and if it were not for an injury last year, he would more than likely be in Tennessee this year. So far he’s pitched 4.1 innings and he’s only allowed two hits. Thorpe and Williamson are also loogy specialist but not as dominant as Minch has been the last year.
South Bend: Marc Huberman, Jose Paulino, Wyatt Short
Although Paulino has yet to debut, ’ I think he has the most potential as a reliever from the left side in the Cubs’ system. He throws 93 to 95 with a wicked awesome slider/curve. He dominated in the first half of Eugene’s’ dominating run to a championship before coming to South Bend. He was OK as a starter at South Bend but has been moved to the bullpen this past off-season. He stayed for a little extra time and extended spring training and I cannot wait to see what he does in 2 to 3 inning stints this summer. Short and Huberman are also very dominant. Both have been excellent so far this season. Combined, the trio makes up the best collection of left-handed bullpen arms in the system.
Injured: Manny Parra
I have not heard of a timetable for his return as he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Right now, it would be hard to make a judgment just based on three or four appearances. I think Rollins and Zastryzny would be the clear two front runners for the summer. While Rollins is pitching well, I do not think he is the dominant picture of the Cubs are looking for to use in the playoffs. However, he is good enough to help them get there if needed. The same is true for Zastryzny.
As a result, I think the Cubs will be looking to acquire a lefty sometime by the end of July. Next year, however, we could be looking at Paulino, Minch, Short, and maybe even Huberman, as possible options for a left-handed reliever(s).