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Whose Bullpen Is This, Anyway?

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Can you guess who wrote all of the following about the Cubs bullpen?

April 6:

The bullpen was excellent, throwing three innings of one-hit, four-strikeout relief, and that included Chad Fox, who couldn't have found the strike zone with a halogen beam during spring training. Michael Wuertz threw hard and threw strikes and I still think Dusty ought to consider at least trying him in the closer role.

April 8:

Until Hawkins blew the game, I was almost ready to write the opposite -- Mike Wuertz, Chad Fox and Mike Remlinger did hold the Brewers down till the 9th, and I say again, Wuertz is a real potential answer right in-house as closer. I mentioned this to Dave and he said "Maybe -- but he doesn't have the experience." Well, how are you going to get that unless you do it? He couldn't do any WORSE than Hawkins, anyway, right?

April 10:

Once again, the bullpen did an outstanding job. Todd Wellemeyer was greeted by a Damian Miller homer but otherwise dispatched the Brewers well, and the rest of the pen -- Mike Wuertz (CLOSER! CLOSER! CLOSER!), Mike Remlinger and Rusch, threw six innings of five-hit ball, striking out seven in all.

April 11:

The bullpen was outstanding today -- giving up absolutely nothing over three innings, and keeping the ballclub in the game. Even Chad Fox got through without walking anyone today, and Mike Wuertz had another excellent outing (CLOSER!! CLOSER!! CLOSER!!).

April 15:

The bullpen, which had been outstanding all week, failed in the 8th -- after Mike Remlinger gave up a single to that pest Mackowiak and a double to Daryle Ward, Chad Fox came in and gave up an RBI double to Bobby Hill (shudder!) and then there was the ball hit by Chris Duffy, the misjudged ball by Hairston, for another run -- Duffy's first major league hit, incidentally.

April 17:

The bullpen also resumed its excellent work today -- Mike Wuertz, Mike Remlinger, Chad Fox and (gulp) yes, even LaTroy Hawkins combined for three innings of one-hit, two-walk, scoreless relief. Wuertz qualified for the win simply by happening to be the pitcher in the game when the Cubs took the lead.

April 24:

The bullpen -- Rusch, Mike Wuertz and Fox -- did their jobs today, although Rusch gave up three hits in his two innings, and Fox just couldn't stand to have a 1-2-3 inning, walking Sanchez before striking out pinch-hitter Tike Redman to end the snappy two-hour-and-fourteen-minute game.

April 26:

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...

April 27:

Today's lousy pitching came from Ryan Dempster, who walked five in his five and a third innings, and had to slog on because the bullpen was totally overused last night -- so much so that Jon Leicester, who rarely threw anyway, was sent back to Iowa before the game. Why? Mainly, I suspect, so they'd have a fresh body in Roberto Novoa, who did come in and pitch an inning and wound up with a 9.00 ERA for the day after allowing a long double off the wall to Austin Kearns, and then an RBI single to pinch-hitter Jacob Cruz, who came into the game with one RBI on the season...

This quiz is easy. I wrote all of those things, and as you look back over the last three weeks, all of them are true.

So which is it? Is the Cubs' bullpen "excellent" and "outstanding"? Or is it "lousy" and "a failure"?

Of course, all of it is true. The best word to describe the Cubs' bullpen isn't any of the above, it's "inconsistent". Can Mike Wuertz, Mike Remlinger, Glendon Rusch, Roberto Novoa, Cliff Bartosh, Will Ohman and LaTroy Hawkins do the major league job of getting hitters out?

At times, they have -- and just naming those names, you can see one of the reasons for the inconsistency. Twenty-one games into the season, there have already been two replacements on the pitching staff -- Ohman and Novoa, and two demotions -- Todd Wellemeyer and Jon Leicester, and the loss of Chad Fox to injury.

(Yes, that adds up -- Wellemeyer was replaced on the roster by Mark Prior.)

There are other arms available at Iowa -- Jermaine Van Buren is someone who I know excited a lot of people in spring training. He's got a great arm, but is very raw -- this is his first experience at Triple-A.

There's also Will Cunnane, who pitched for the Cubs in 2002 and in 2003 was a capable middle reliever for the Braves.

Some might mention Eddie Oropesa. The only way I'd let Oropesa near a major league ballpark is if he buys a ticket and sits in the stands. Why is he even still around at age 33 with a lifetime 7.34 ERA?

THROWS=LEFT. That's why.

And of course, we hope that Joe Borowski will be back soon, maybe in a week or two. Presuming JoeBo is ready to go, this should have a calming ripple effect on the rest of the staff.

I was reminded by my SportsBLOGS colleague at Halos Heaven that in 2002, the Angels' World Championship season, that they were 6-14 after 20 games. The Cubs are 11-10, and that's with losing their starting double-play combination to injury.

Dave told me this years ago, and it's true. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Seven-eighths of the season remains. Keep the faith.