Levine: Will Bullpen Issues Lead Cubs To Jonathan Papelbon?

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains and sometimes player development is more important than winning.

In the case of rookie Cubs reliever Carl Edwards on Saturday, it was a learning curve for now and maybe a baseball master’s degree in education for the future.

Entering a 2-2 game in the eighth inning against the Cardinals, Edwards had a meltdown, surrendering five runs. St. Louis would go on to win 8-4 at Wrigley Field, snapping Chicago’s 11-game winning streak.

Edwards has been brought along with baby steps by Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Edwards was pitching late in the game due to the injures of Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, as well as a depleted bullpen staff.

With Strop out for at least six weeks and Rondon still nursing a strained right triceps, Maddon is trying to develop Edwards for a late September role of significance. That type of player development may be even more essential if Strop and company aren’t ready to go to the post.

“Of course that is what the team looks like without Strop and Rondon,” Maddon said. “Regardless, I really felt good about (Carl) in that moment. He has been outstanding. He gets the first out quickly, the walk, then a ground ball gets through and all of the sudden he lost his command a little bit. The way he has been pitching, I think he has been outstanding.”

With fellow reliever Joe Smith struggling to get outs and the bullpen getting worn down, additions may well be necessary.

Always active in the player acquirement area, the Cubs could consider reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who asked for and was granted his release by the Nationals. The 35-year-old Papelbon has had a star-crossed season. After having a respectable 2.56 ERA in late July, he gave up eight runs in his next five appearances over 3 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, the Nationals picked up Pirates closer Mark Melancon near the deadline, making Papelbon excess baggage.

That Papelbon has had incidents with opposing players and teammates (choking Bryce Harper last season) in the past may be of no consequence to Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who signed and developed him in Boston. Papelbon was on the hill for the Red Sox when they won the World Series in 2007  and is a six-time All-Star, with 368 saves in a 12-year big-league career.

Those who know the tightly wound Papelbon say he’s an excellent teammate and great competitor. Although not directly asked about Papelbon, Maddon did confirm that the front office is still trying to add pieces to this already electric group.

“I would not be surprised at all,” Maddon said. “I have been in this situation before. Teams that I have had added some really pertinent August acquisitions also. You know our guys, they are always about making us better all of the time. So, nothing would surprise me”

The Red Sox, who have had bullpen issues, may be kicking the tires on signing Papelbon, too.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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