Deja Vu All Over Again: Bullpen, Offense Fail In 6-1 Cubs Loss

Yesterday, I proposed some possible changes to the Cubs bullpen (they're certainly not my only ideas, nor are they set in stone). Still think they're crazy?

Maybe today, I need to propose not only that, but some revamps to the offense. The Cubs left 12 men on base in an ugly 6-1 loss to the Mets; about the only thing that worked yesterday was Lou's selection of Marlon Byrd to lead off vs. LHP. Byrd had three hits and reached base when Jenrry Mejia hit him in the helmet. Byrd, for his part, did a 360, reached down and picked up his helmet, and trotted to first.

I really like the way Byrd plays the game -- hard, every single day, and with a smile on his face, which has to be difficult when his team is playing so poorly around him.

I'm not really sure what to do about the offensive woes. The Cubs had nine hits and drew five walks -- 14 baserunners. They left RISP in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth innings, including having the bases loaded with one out and the #4 and #5 hitters due up in the fifth, when the game was still scoreless. They're hitting. They are getting plenty of men on base. 14 baserunners has to -- absolutely has to -- score your team more than one run.

So should Lou shake up the lineup again? Maybe, but what will that accomplish? The hitters who have produced in the past have to produce. You can't even blame Alfonso Soriano -- he had two hits. Aramis Ramirez went 0-for-4. Ryan Theriot went 0-for-3 with a walk, and seeing that he's hitting .222, I'd suggest he be replaced for a while, but at the moment that would mean starting Mike Fontenot at shortstop. The Mets brought up their top hitting prospect, Ike Davis, to make his ML debut last night; it has been suggested to me that the Cubs do the same with Starlin Castro, but the two situations are not comparable: Davis is 23, played college ball at ASU, and started the year dominating Triple-A the way Castro is dominating Double-A. Castro needs more time.

Now that I've ripped the offense apart, let's talk about the bullpen failures, which ruined another fine outing by Randy Wells. The Cubs are third in the NL with eight quality starts, and the starters' ERA of 3.53 is outstanding. James Russell, who's thrown well so far, had his worst outing of the year, allowing the first runs of his major league career. Jeff Samardzija -- nuff said, I think. He needs to be the one sent to Iowa when Ted Lilly is activated. Two of the five runs the pen allowed were unearned -- and even that's bad; the Cubs are now second in the NL with nine unearned runs allowed in 13 games (the Padres are first with ten).

Speaking of which, Lou Piniella will send one of his starters to the pen when Ted returns on Saturday -- and it looks like Carlos Zambrano might be seriously considered to be that pitcher:

But when asked whether the bullpen move could involve anyone but Carlos Silva or Tom Gorzelanny, Piniella said, "I didn't say that. I never said that. You all can say what you want. All I said basically is that somebody's got to leave the rotation to go into the bullpen."

Asked three follow-up questions seeking clarification, Piniella would not rule out his first three starters for a bullpen move -- although it appears none of those possibilities have specifically been discussed with the staff.

"You heard what I said," Piniella said, "that we have not made definite decisions. We're going to see how Lilly is, and once we find out how Lilly is, now we can put our thoughts to the other issue.

"But if Lilly's not ready, then there's no sense even addressing something like that. So let's just wait for Lilly to pitch, see how he feels, when he can join the rotation, and then we can look at the other situation."

Based on Lou's quotes, those questions must have been asked before the game, since it appears, based on his outstanding outing for Peoria last night, that Ted is ready:

Lilly, coming back after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder last November, was making his second Minor League start. He struck out nine and gave up one run on three hits and one walk. Of the 88 pitches, 63 were strikes.

He also singled and walked and was caught stealing. What a guy.

It's far too early to panic. The 2007 Cubs -- who have a similar feel to this year's team -- were also 5-8 after 13 games, and Lou spent two months tweaking that team before they finally started winning.

But a change has to come when Lilly comes back. If Lou's going to move one of his top three starters out of the rotation, it's not going to be Wells or Ryan Dempster, who have both made three good starts. Surprise us, Jim & Lou. Make a bold move. This team needs one.

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