Cubs' bullpen retools and is alive and well

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have won 10 of their past 15 games with a newly constructed bullpen. Chicago's starting rotation has been stellar all season, but the makeshift relief corps has made a big difference in the Cubs' recent surge.

Gone from the bullpen that began the season is closer Carlos Marmol. Setup men Kyuji Fujikawa and Shawn Camp are also out of the picture. Only left-hander James Russell remains from the back end of the unaccomplished first group of relievers.

"We have a lot of big arms now," Russell said. "We have [Henry] Rodriguez come in and throwing 100 mph. We have [Pedro] Strop, who we just picked up, and he comes in throwing 96 mph from all angles. [Kevin] Gregg has been lights-out at the end of the game. We have Blake Parker coming into his own. All and all, we have a really tight group out there."

On Thursday night, Parker, Russell, Strop and Gregg combined for two innings of one-hit relief in a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Earlier this spring, the Cubs' morale was at quite a low when the bullpen led the majors in blown saves. Before Gregg was picked up as a free agent, the bullpen seemed to be in a state of panic. Gregg has converted 16 of 18 save opportunities since signing in April. The rest of the relievers have been a combined 5-of-21.

"This is a much more functional bullpen than we have had before," manager Dale Sveum said. "With Strop and some of the others now, I am able to do so many things that I wasn't able to do before."

Numerous teams are calling the Cubs to express interest in trading for Gregg and Russell, according to scouting sources. The dilemma for the Cubs' front office is whether to trade from an area that took almost half a season to get right.

"Our bullpen came in and shut down one of the better lineups," said Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, who won his sixth game of the season Thursday after pitching seven innings of three-hit ball. "We picked each other up. That is big when you have a team that can pick each other up."