With pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa, Ariz., on Saturday, Bruce Levine previews the Cubs roster by position this week.
The Chicago Cubs' bullpen was a strength of the 2011 team. But gone from the mix is lefthander Sean Marshall, who was one of baseball’s best set–up men the past two seasons. The back of the pen will be a question mark with the loss of Marshall and the uncertain status of Carlos Marmol's arm strength. The pen will really have to tighten up if Jeff Samardzija goes into the rotation.
1. Carlos Marmol, RHP: He must bounce back with a better season and fewer blown saves. The 29-year-old right-hander had 10 blown saves in 2011, tied for the most in the majors. Marmol also has been baseball's most overused bullpen arm with 27 back-to-back outings last season, by far the most in all of baseball. Since 2008, Marmol has the most appearances of any pitcher, a foolish number when you consider that for two and a half of those four years he was a closer. Marmol told ESPNChicago.com that he has lost 10 pounds since last October. Expect a rebound if manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio watch how they use him.
2. Kerry Wood, RHP: The setup man can still get quality hitters out, but like Marmol he needs to be protected from overuse. Wood was up too many times in 2011 without coming into a game. The Cubs icon has recovered from offseason knee surgery, and 50 innings should be his max this season.
3. John Gaub, LHP: He will get a shot as the team's main set-up man along with Wood. Gaub fanned 75 batters in 55 innings at Triple-A Iowa in 2011. Finding a power arm from the left side was a pleasant surprise for the new Cubs brass.
4. James Russell, LHP: The lefthander learned how to pitch at this level through trial and error last season. Russell, who started five games for the Cubs last season, will set up Marmol if Gaub falters.
5. Manny Corpas, RHP: He will get a chance to regain his form this spring. 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.
6. Andy Sonnanstine, RHP: The former Tampa Ray has had experience as a starter and reliever. He will be available in either role.
7. Chris Carpenter, RHP: He can hit 100 mph with his fastball and could be the sleeper in the Cubs bullpen this season. Carpenter pitched in 10 games for the Cubs in 2011 before going back to Triple-A. He impressed scouts in the Arizona Fall League.
The rest of the bullpen will depend on which pitchers make the rotation. Samardzija goes back to a setup role if he is not part of the rotation. Randy Wells and Casey Coleman might also go to the bullpen if they don't crack the rotation. Chris Volstad is a part of the same mix as the rest of this group. Scott Maine is a situation lefty who could squeeze his way on the 25-man roster.