By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The Cub bullpen that’s a cause for real concern received reinforcements Thursday. The overused and underperforming bullpen bunch was fortified with two arms, as right-hander Neil Ramirez and left-hander Zac Rosscup were called up from Triple-A and will be used to protect the arms of James Russell, Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop.
All four of the latter pitchers have appeared in at least half of Chicago’s games. That kind of pace could contribute to a less effective performance and lead to arm fatigue.
The organization doesn’t want to overuse its relief pitchers, but extra-inning games and fewer innings from starters Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson have put an early burden on the bullpen. At this point, manager Rick Renteria said the team will stick with 13 pitchers (eight in the bullpen) for the next two weeks.
Ramirez and Rosscup could be used in multiple roles in a bullpen that has yet to establish any real organized slots four weeks into the season.
“We will use them the way we feel we need to,” Renteria said. “If it happens to be in the ninth, then it happens to be in the ninth.”
Failed closer Jose Veras is a reclamation project at this point. Strop’s blown save Thursday has left doubt that Renteria has anyone to trust on at the end of a game right now.
Ramirez was acquired in the Matt Garza deal last July and is a converted stater with a big arm who came out of nowhere to claim the open role. He had no record in seven relief appearances at Iowa, allowing six earned runs in seven innings. Rosscup had five relief outings at Iowa with a 1-0 record and a 4.26 ERA.
The Cubs bullpen has had six save opportunities in 2014 and blown four of them.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.