Results tagged ‘ Kevin Gregg ’

Cubs bullpen has turned things around

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The first two weeks of the season were a struggle for the Cubs relief corps. Despite strong efforts from one of the NL’s best rotations in the club’s first 12 games, the bullpen blew four save opportunities, compiled a 5.82 ERA and repeatedly failed to secure victories in winnable games.

But the ‘pen’s performance in the last two weeks is making those early-season woes look like a thing of the past. In the last 13 games, the relievers have compiled a 1.85 ERA, third in the NL during that stretch. Though they still walk too many hitters (9.5 walk percentage, second highest in NL since April 16), the bullpen has found a way to get out of jams, leaving an NL-best 92.4 percent of runners on base.

The Cubs have been in every game this season—all but three have been decided by three runs or fewer and none by more than four—which means a strong bullpen is often the difference between winning and losing. What the team looks to have gained in recent weeks is a “give me the-ball” type finisher. Though manager Dale Sveum has not named a closer and prefers a bullpen-by-committee approach, the North Siders acquired veteran late-innings reliever Kevin Gregg, who was released by the Dodgers at the end of Spring Training. Since making his debut on April 19, Gregg has been lights out, surrendering no earned runs in his first six appearances and racking up four saves.

Despite Opening Day closer Carlos Marmol’s early failures, surrendering five earned runs in his first 1.2 innings pitched, he hasn’t given up a run since April 6. He has still walked eight batters in those nine innings, but he’s managed to miss a lot of bats in that time too, striking out nine.

The most consistent relief pitcher all season has been southpaw James Russell. The 26-year-old has leaned heavily on his 80 mph slider, throwing it 45 percent of the time, while mixing in a fastball and change-up. So far this season, his strikeout totals have improved dramatically. He’s now fanning 10.6 batters per nine, three K/9 better than last season. In 11 innings, he’s walked just one batter and hasn’t given up an earned run. He’s been so effective that his 0.6 wins above replacement (according to fangraphs.com) is tied for the best among relief pitchers in baseball.

To round things out, Shawn Camp looks like he might have rediscovered his 2012 form after struggling early, and waiver pickup Kameron Loe has been reliable in his five innings since being claimed off waivers from Seattle. Though the relievers’ .269 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) might indicate they’re pitching a little above their ability (an average BABIP is around .300), a solid effort from these pitchers all season long could make a big difference in 2013.

Cubs activate Barney, add Gregg, Loe, Ransom

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Kevin Gregg returns to the Cubs bullpen, where he was the club’s closer in 2009. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Cubs made a flurry of roster moves Tuesday afternoon. The North Siders brought Darwin Barney off the 15-day DL, and officially added relievers Kevin Gregg, Kameron Loe and infielder Cody Ransom to the major league fold.

Gold Glove second baseman Barney returns after lacerating his knee on the final weekend of Spring Training. During his three-game rehab stint at Triple-A Iowa, the 27-year-old went 5-for-10 with a double and four runs scored. Playing in 155 games at second base last season, Barney committed just two errors, including a stretch of 141 consecutive games without an error.

The 34-year-old Gregg has spent much of the last 10 years in the majors, including a stint as the Cubs’ closer in 2009. The right-hander has a career 4.13 ERA and 144 saves, including five straight seasons of 22 or more saves from 2007-11. Gregg was in Dodgers camp for Spring Training before being released on April 3. He has previously spent time with the Angels (2003-06), Marlins (2007-08), Blue Jays (2010) and Orioles (2011-12).

The Cubs claimed the 31-year-old Loe off waivers from Seattle on Sunday. The nine-year major league veteran moved into a full-time relief role in 2008. The right-hander has a career 4.44 ERA and owns a 33-41 overall record. He’s previously played with Texas (2004-2008), Milwaukee (2010-2012) and Seattle (2013).

The Cubs also claimed infielder Cody Ransom off waivers from the Padres. The 37-year-old has spent 11 seasons in the majors with the Giants (2001-04), Astros (2007), Yankees (2008-09), Phillies (2010), Diamondbacks (2011-12), Brewers (2012) and Padres (2013). His finest season came last year, when he hit .220 with 14 doubles and 11 home runs in 90 games. He is a career .215 hitter with 21 homers and 85 RBI.

To make room on the 25-man roster, the Cubs designated infielder Brent Lillibridge and reliever Hisanori Takahashi for assignment and optioned reliever Rafael Dolis to Triple-A Iowa.

Lillibridge hit .042 with one hit in 24 at-bats this season, while Takakashi had a 6.00 ERA (2 ER, 3 IP). Dolis held the Giants scoreless in his lone relief appearance this weekend.

Back to it: Cubs acquire Kevin Gregg

There’s no slowing down in baseball’s off-season: General manager Jim Hendry has been working the phone for a couple weeks coming out of the team’s organizational meetings, and he made his first major move today by picking up Marlins right-handed reliever Kevin Gregg for hard-throwing prospect Jose Ceda.

Gregg is a 6-6, 238-pound flame-thrower, who has been effective against both left- and right-handed batters. With the Marlins in 2007 and 2008, Gregg pitched in several late-inning roles, including closer. He features a mid- to high-90s fastball and a splitter.

More updates to come

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with the Vine Line blog during the off-season. We’ll be updating regularly over the coming months, including with updates on the magazine as some of you have requested.

In the coming days, look for extended comments on Geovany Soto and Lou Piniella on their awards as well as the year ahead.

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