By Bruce Levine–
(CBS) — By adding seven minor league players to use, including five bullpen pitchers, the Chicago Cubs are in position to have a big impact on the pennant races despite being out of the contention themselves.
Manager Rickey Renteria will have a bullpen that goes 11 deep every time out for the last 24 games of the 2014 campaign.
Many baseball executives have complained in recent years that teams out of contention have an unrealistic advantage in using unlimited September call-ups. The rule can alter outcomes of games in the last month. Managers with nothing to lose can start matching up multiple bullpen moves that weren’t available to them before Sept. 1.
“The union will not allow any changes to the call-up policy because it impacts service time for their members,” an American League executive said. “We have the general managers check out the rule every offseason and until now, nothing has been done. To me, it is wrong when a team can match up with numbers in the last month of the season where previously they could not beat you with their 25-man roster the first five months of the season.”
As an example, Renteria has had basically only one left-handed relief pitcher to use since James Russell was traded to Atlanta in late July. With call-ups in place, Renteria starts this evening against Milwaukee with three lefties to use out of the bullpen. Expanded rosters mean this type of bullpen excess allows matchups in the fifth inning on. Those moves wouldn’t be an option with the 25-man roster in place the first five months of the season.
The Cubs play 21 of their last 24 games against teams with realistic playoff hopes. In 15 of those games, the teams that will play against Chicago are within three games of a playoff berth beginning play Tuesday.
“I try not to make excuses for what will happen on the other side of the field,” Renteria said. “I just know we are going to be prepared with the new six or seven guys. We concentrate on what we are going to do and do our homework.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.