Yesterday I previewed the starting rotation so I will stick with pitching today and analyze the Cubs bullpen heading into this season.
1. Carlos Marmol, RHP: Marmol will return for his third season as the Cubs closer. He will look to bounce back from a rocky 2011 season where he blew a league leading 10 saves. Marmol will have to prove to president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer that he can be the Cubs closer for years to come. The Cubs definitely hope that he can rebound this season, considering that he has been their most active bullpen pitcher. Since 2008, Marmol has the most appearances of any pitcher in majors.
2. Kerry Wood, RHP: After entertaining offers from other teams around the MLB, Wood decided to remain with the Cubs. However, Wood keeps getting older and he had another knee surgery over the off season. The Cubs made a mistake last year with Wood as they warmed him up without putting him into the game to often. Wood will be a late inning set up man for the Cubs this year. But don’t expect anything more than about 50 innings from Woody this season.
3. John Gaub, LHP: The hard throwing lefty was a nice surprise for Hoyer and Epstein to discover when they came to Chicago. Gaub will have a shot at getting quality innings as a second set up man this year. Gaub fanned 75 batters in 55 innings at Triple-A Iowa in 2011.
4. James Russell, LHP: Russell had a rough time in the majors as a spot starter for the Cubs last year. But he will be back in the pen this year with the Cubs. If Gaub struggles, Russell will be considered for the top lefty in the bullpen.
5. Andy Sonnanstine, RHP: Sonnanstine has spent the last couple season with the Tampa Bay Rays. He spent time going back and forth between the starting rotation and bullpen. But he will just be featured in the bullpen for the Cubs this season.
6. Manny Corpas, RHP: A closer for the Rockies in 2007, Corpas, 29, has been throwing hard since sitting out 2011 following arm surgery. He could set up or close if anyone gets hurt.
7. Chris Carpenter, RHP: The Cubs have very high hopes for the hard throwing right hander. He is the Cubs top pitching prospect and can be a big part of their plans for the future. Carpenter pitched in 10 games for the Cubs in 2011 before going back to Triple-A. He features a fastball that can hit over 100mph and a good slider to go with it. If Marmol struggles, there is a chance Carpenter will become the Cubs closer in the next few years.
The Cubs will be relying on a lot of young guys to fill the void left by Sean Marshall who was a big part of the bullpen last year. Other sports in the pen will be determined by who makes the starting rotation. Pitchers such as Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, and Casey Coleman could be sent to the bullpen if the don’t make the rotation.
Fans will be looking for something to be excited about on this below average team and Chris Carpenter has the ability to provide some excitement.