<
>

Cubs make changes in bullpen as starter Dan Haren struggles

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chicago Cubs' acquisition of reliever Fernando Rodney from the Seattle Mariners might feel a little like throwing a deck chair off the Titanic. The Cubs' bigger issue could be in the starting rotation -- not that plugging a hole somewhere else is a bad thing.

Time will tell if Rodney can recapture any of his past glory, which includes a historic season in 2012 for Cubs manager Joe Maddon when both were in Tampa Bay. He saved 48 that year to go with a 0.60 ERA. That's a story for this weekend as Rodney is expected to join the team in Los Angeles.

The narrative on Thursday, after the Cubs' 9-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, involves Dan Haren's inability to recapture some of his own youthful success. Haren gave up five runs -- including a three-run home run to former Cub Marlon Byrd -- giving Giants starter Madison Bumgarner more than enough to work with.

"He's [Byrd] hit me well in the past," Haren said after the game. "Fell behind 2-0. Walking him crossed my mind but I was already laboring that inning. In hindsight, I should have wasted a pitch.

"I can whine and complain and feel sorry for myself or just move on and try to be better the next time. I'll do anything for this team. I just want us to win."

Haren sounded more and more frustrated throughout his postgame session -- and for good reason. He has a 6.79 ERA with the Cubs since being acquired July 31 and leads baseball in home runs allowed. Byrd's was the 29th long ball this year off Haren.

"Take away the home run by Byrd, he pitched really darn good," Maddon said.

That sounds a little like Abraham Lincoln enjoying the play, but Maddon is always going to focus on the positive. Haren did get through 6 1/3 innings.

"I thought Danny did a great job," Maddon said. "I think it's something to build off of going into the next outing."

Even Haren isn't buying that, and most likely neither are Cubs fans. The team has to be too perfect on the days he's pitching considering he's already given up eight home runs in five starts as a Cub. The solo shots are one thing, but three-run homers are going to be too much to overcome most of the time.

The pitcher isn't making excuses. He's been welcomed with open arms by his new team, but the production just isn't there.

"I've been impressed, surprised how good it's been," Haren said of being traded to the Cubs. "I really haven't held up my end of the bargain. I feel worse about it than anybody."

Maddon didn't intimate Haren's job was in jeopardy, but just as Thursday's trade for Rodney sent Zac Rosscup to the minors, there's always the chance of another deal at any moment as the Cubs have transferred into win-now mode. A deal could even happen in September. Remember, they don't need another playoff starter, just one who can help them get there. Maddon was asked how Haren has worked out so far.

"Kind of like as advertised," he said. "He's going to give up some homers. You have to play some defense behind him."

Down two outfielders because of injuries, the Cubs didn't have a perfect defense for spacious AT&T Park and it may have hurt them. Too many things had to go right knowing Haren might give up runs. It didn't happen, especially with Bumgarner dealing on the other side.

"We got a run off Bumgarner which is hard to do, but I gave it right back," Haren said of the second inning. "No one feels worse about it than me."

With a 5.5-game lead for the second wild card, maybe the Cubs can afford one more look at the righty. After that, they may have to think about replacements, just as they've done in the bullpen.

"It's been an amazing experience so far," Haren said. "I just hope to contribute a little more down the road."