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Help Wanted: Relief Pitchers, No Experience (Well, Maybe Some Experience) Necessary

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Ugh.

Where do I even begin to describe this rollicking, hideous chaos that masqueraded as a baseball game?

Let me start here. As I was walking to the 7-11 to get my Super Big Gulp (and turkey & cheese sandwich; they're giving you free Big Gulps this month if you buy a sandwich), I spotted something different on the little portable souvenir cart that sets up in the 7-11 parking lot.

They had oversized Cub player birthday cards for people to sign -- there are three birthdays next week, Ryan Dempster (May 3), and Ben Grieve and Joe Borowski (May 4). I suppose after the cards get filled up, they'll present them to the players.

So I signed all three, and below my name wrote "RF Bleachers, www.bleedcubbieblue.com".

And I'm hoping one or more of the players will stop on by here one day. Of those three, the one I'd expect here might be Dempster -- he's a free spirit who, as I wrote last month, did a dead-on impression of Harry Caray during the Fan Fest in Mesa.

That was the most interesting thing that happened tonight. The rest of it was been there, done that, as the bullpen failed again in the Reds' come-from-behind 11-9 win over the Cubs -- this after the Cubs had come from down 5-1 and 6-3 to take an 8-6 lead.

Oh, my, what a mess. Yes, the bullpen failed. But so did Carlos Zambrano. Z's command failed him in the first two innings -- he walked three, and the key blow after that was Ken Griffey Jr.'s bases-clearing double, which made it 5-1. After that Z settled down for two innings, but blew up completely in the fifth after Adam Dunn's homer.

If you didn't see it, now, THAT was a windblown homer. When it left the bat it looked like it was going to be a foul popup into the seats just past the bullpen. The 14 MPH wind kept blowing, and blowing, and eventually deposited the ball just inside the foul pole for a home run.

That's when Z exploded. His next pitch hit Austin Kearns, and plate umpire Steve Rippley immediately tossed him. Usually, a warning would be issued, but as Mike reminded me, when such things are "egregious", umpires can, in their judgment, eject players immediately, and that's what happened, and frankly, I agree with this. Z is just going to have to learn to control himself better. He didn't have a very good day, and sometimes pitchers don't. We all love Z's enthusiasm and passion, but he must figure out a way to channel this properly -- because with a pitcher of this talent on the mound, when you score nine runs, you ought to win.

Meanwhile, the Cub offense was smacking homers off Eric Milton, who, as I mentioned this afternoon, was last seen by Cub fans nearly tossing a perfect game against the Cubs last August in Philadelphia. He gave up four homers -- Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Jeromy Burnitz and Jason Dubois hit them -- and has now allowed ten home runs in five starts this year (on page to shatter the ML record for such things, which is fifty). Incidentally, Lee's homer was measured at 422 feet, and Dubois', which was longer, at 402, and neither one of those measurements was close. Both balls landed across Waveland Avenue, and both of them had to be well over 450 feet.

Dismayingly, this team is starting to look like last year's -- living and dying by the homer. In four games vs. the Reds in 2005 the Cubs have now hit thirteen home runs, and for this effort have won two of the four games.

It was equal opportunity failure tonight, but the two worst culprits were Mike Wuertz, who we all thought was going to be Closer By Default, but inexplicably appeared in the seventh inning, and gave up three runs (two earned), and Cliff Bartosh, who couldn't throw strikes, and wound up with no runs charged to his record, just a sac fly that scored the runners that Jon Leicester had let on base, and...

Well, you get the idea. Dave's been hoping each off-season that the Cubs would sign Al Levine, a Chicago-area native who used to play for Dave when he was a semipro coach. Instead, Levine signed with the Giants this off-season and was recently recalled. The Cubs could use a guy like that.

Will Ohman, recalled today when Chad Fox was placed on the DL, threw an OK two-thirds of an inning, after the obligatory "Good Ohman - Bad Ohman" jokes, which we all hope will disappear after tonight.

I kept telling everyone that "Neifi Perez is going to save this game." He nearly got the chance to; he was on deck when Todd Hollandsworth was just barely out at first base to end the game, with the tying runs in scoring position. Neifi! got hit by a pitch today, and singled, keeping his amazing average at .393; you can go vote for him for the All-Star team again tomorrow.

By then both Brian (who was too cold -- I had to loan him my extra headband), and Jeff (who has a long day of work tomorrow) had left, and Mike commented, "We've been abandoned."

I replied, "It's not the first time, and probably won't be the last."

I simply cannot fathom why Dusty felt he had to double-switch Michael Barrett out of the game in the eighth inning, especially after he had singled and tripled. Henry Blanco can't hit; he did manage to reach on an error.

And we all cringed when Dubois dropped an easy fly ball that was going to be a sacrifice fly anyway; I said to Jeff, "Well, that's the last time he'll get a start." Let's hope not. Fielding fly balls and popups the last two days has been an adventure with the wind blowing out, then in, then swirling.

Ronny Cedeno, who came in the game in the 9th in another double-switch, got his first major league hit and RBI with a nice line single -- this after Paul Friedman got what we termed "Mike Terson Disease" and announced him coming in to play the wrong position. What Dusty had intended was for Cedeno to play SS and Neifi! to move to 2B. Friedman announced Cedeno at 2B (Jerry Hairston being double-switched out of the game), and Cedeno was confused himself at first, wandering over to the 2B spot. Neifi! had to point to him, as if to say, no -- you go play over there.

Ryan Dempster will go in tomorrow's day game, which really, really, REALLY is a must-win -- and don't say it's not, because losing two of three at home to the Reds would be more than an embarrassment.

I hope that Jim Hendry, Dusty Baker and the coaches sit down on the off-day Thursday, and scan the waiver wires and farm systems, and try to do something -- anything -- to fix this bullpen. I said to Jeff, "Wonder what Dave Veres and Mark Guthrie are doing these days?"

I was only half-joking.