CHICAGO -- The Cincinnati Reds might use their two dominating left-handed relievers late in games, but those arms can have an effect in the middle of a contest too.
Take the move made Sunday by Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who raised more than a few eyebrows when he removed one of the team’s best hitters and power threats following the fifth inning. The move came in a tie game the Cubs would eventually lose 4-3.
After Bryan LaHair used his effective left-handed swing to drive in a run for the Cubs in the fifth, he was replaced by Joe Mather on defense. Mather had just batted for pitcher Randy Wells and on a double switch, reliever Rodrigo Lopez went into LaHair’s old spot.
But Mather could also play left field and Alfonso Soriano did make the last out in the fifth inning. Still, Sveum removed LaHair since lefties Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall were looming in the Reds bullpen.
“It was probably going to be the last meaningful at-bat he was going to get off a right-hander,” Sveum said. “If they had two right-handers, setup guy and a closer, I wouldn’t be double switching for LaHair there.”
As it turned out, Soriano stayed in the game and struck out with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh inning. It was the second time he was retired with the bases loaded in the game after grounding into a force out to end the third inning.
Making matters even harder to take is the fact that Marshall used to be Cubs property, but his trade to the Reds this offseason played right into Cincinnati’s hands Sunday.
LaHair said he understood the switch and had no problem with it, but that didn’t mean he wanted to find himself in the dugout in the late innings, even with some intimidating lefties at the Reds’ disposal.
“I don’t think about that,” LaHair said when asked if he took stock in the left-handers yet to be used. “I’m not worried about lefties. I haven’t had success early, but lefties don’t scare me.”
LaHair is hitless in just six at-bats against left-handers this season, striking out five of those times.