Grimm keeping head up despite struggles

CHICAGO – It doesn’t take a sabermetrician to understand why Chicago Cubs reliever Justin Grimm has struggled this season. The 18 hits given up in 18 innings isn’t pretty, but it’s the 12 walks that have stood out.

Relievers hate giving up walks.

“It was more about pitching to contact, honestly,” Grimm said Saturday before the Cubs played the Milwaukee Brewers. “Trying to be too fine. The message from the pitching coach and manager was ‘you have to chill out on the walks’. When they come to you and say that, it’s kind of obvious.”

Grimm had a nice rebound outing Friday after losing a game just a few days earlier in St. Louis. He didn’t just lose it, he imploded in the 12th inning of a tie contest, hitting a batter with the bases loaded to end the game. That came after two walks.

“That was definitely the last straw,” Grimm stated. “It did not feel good. I hate losing, and to plunk a guy, man, that’s bad.”

At least he’s not shying away from his mistakes, but now he has to learn from them. Grimm isn’t an older veteran like Jose Veras who won’t be in a Cubs uniform past this season. At 25 years old, he has a chance to stick around through the rebuilding phase of the team. He’s even been mentioned as a possible starter, or closer -- that’s how good his stuff can be.

It’s all you ever hear from pitching coach Chris Bosio and manager Rick Renteria: Grimm has great stuff. His curveball and slider are good complements to his four-seam fastball. His inning and a third on Friday, where he struck out three batters without allowing a base-runner, was a good indicator of what he has – when he’s throwing them for strikes.

“This year the walks have hurt me,” Grimm said. “That’s what’s creating havoc for me. Let it happen don’t make it happen. That mindset worked yesterday (Friday).”

In a season of finding out what the Cubs have, there will be ups and downs for the youth in the bullpen. One week Grimm is down, the next week it might be someone else. Who’s left standing in September will go a long way to determining who’s a lasting arm for relief.

“It got me pretty down, but I’m not a guy to throw a pity party,” Grimm said. “I’m going to go to work. I think I responded well. I’m thankful for the opportunity he gave me on Friday. Let’s do it again.”