This post is a bit different from the other two I've posted this week, because I'm not asking you to pick one pitcher. There are, as I see it, four spots in the 2011 Cubs bullpen that are guaranteed: closer Carlos Marmol, setup men Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood, and middle relief guy John Grabow (assured of a spot, likely, because of his contract).
Beyond that, it would appear that James Russell, who did a decent job (though shaky at times) in his rookie year, probably has a spot, though that's not a lock. And after that, the final two spots appear open. Will Jeff Samardzija get one if he doesn't make the rotation, or will he be sent back to Iowa? Will Andrew Cashner be in the pen if he isn't a rotation starter, or will he also be starting at Iowa?
There are a lot of candidates for these three spots. If I posted a poll with various types of combinations of three, there would probably be 30 choices. And unfortunately, the polling mechanism we have here doesn't allow multiple choices. So pick the one pitcher you think should be guaranteed one of those last three spots; hopefully, we'll get enough votes that it will show the consensus top three.
And once again, I'm not doing this for backup catchers. I think we already know who people here don't want to have that job.
After the jump, the list of possibilities, and it's pretty long. Vote in the poll.
This list, as was the list the last couple of days, is in alphabetical order.
Justin Berg: had a nice September in 2009, then rode the Chicago-to-Des Moines shuttle last year while posting a 5.18 ERA and giving up more walks than strikeouts.
Esmailin Caridad: like Berg, had a nice September in 2009, then got pounded last year before getting hurt and missing most of the season. He'll get a shot; he's got a good arm, if healthy.
Robert Coello: the just-acquired former Red Sox pitcher will get a shot at the pen, but most likely winds up at Iowa (because he has options left). He pitched in six major league games at the end of 2010, pretty much all at the end of blowouts.
Thomas Diamond: was also in the starter mix; he didn't pitch well as a starter or reliever for the Cubs last year, except for his ML debut where he struck out 10.
Rafael Dolis: just turned 23, and hasn't pitched above Double-A. He has a great arm, but is likely ticketed for Iowa.
John Gaub: looked like he had a major league future after an outstanding 2009. But he was really bad last year. Advantage: he's lefthanded.
Angel Guzman: I'd really love to see him come back from his serious injury. But realistically, he's a longshot.
Braden Looper: also on the possible starters list, he's already said he'd throw long relief if the Cubs needed him to do that. I still go back to that horrific year he had with the Brewers in 2009, though.
Scott Maine: another lefthander, he threw well last year after being recalled. He was acquired from the Diamondbacks for Aaron Heilman. Was given the nickname "Off Day" after this weird incident outside Wrigley last September.
Marcos Mateo: subject of many debates here last year when I said he doesn't belong in a major league uniform, and others claimed he had a great arm. Sure, but "great arm" doesn't always translate into performance. He's a longshot for this year, I think.
James Russell: showed flashes of being solid, interspersed with flashes of pure awfulness. Has talent and is lefthanded.
Jeff Samardzija: seriously, I have no idea where he'll wind up.
Jeff Stevens: has been very good at Iowa the last two years. Has been very bad whenever recalled to the Cubs. At 27, this is probably his last shot; he might wind up being released after spring training if he doesn't make the team.
Who is your top choice for the back end of the Cubs bullpen in 2011?
Justin Berg (40 votes)
Esmailin Caridad (125 votes)
Robert Coello (21 votes)
Thomas Diamond (29 votes)
Rafael Dolis (12 votes)
John Gaub (12 votes)
Angel Guzman (308 votes)
Braden Looper (76 votes)
Scott Maine (77 votes)
Marcos Mateo (13 votes)
James Russell (199 votes)
Jeff Samardzija (228 votes)
Jeff Stevens (22 votes)
Someone else (leave in comments) (18 votes)
1180 total votes