Cubs manager Dale Sveum is throwing convention out the window, and nobody should be alarmed at that crashing sound when it hits the ground.
Granted, what Sveum is doing with the Cubs' bullpen is borne of necessity and the need to improvise, but it seems to be working.
It was all on display Monday night in the Cubs' 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres at a warm and windy Wrigley Field.
Sveum got mostly good work out of four relievers, and he allowed Kevin Gregg to pick up his fourth save by working 1 innings.
"For whatever reason, the guys are getting the job done and getting the big outs when we have to get outs, whoever I bring it at the time," said Sveum, whose team improved to 10-15.
"That's the key, making the pitches when you need to, whether it's Gregg coming in there with (James) Russell getting the first two outs and then basehit, double. Those are the big outs you have to get."
The Cubs needed their pen because starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija was not sharp, as he ran his pitch count to 101 over 5 innings and got a no-decision.
The pen, along with some good hitting by the bottom of the batting order and great fielding by Cody Ransom and Darwin Barney, enabled the Cubs to notch their first win this season when they didn't get a quality start after 9 losses.
Michael Bowden worked a scoreless sixth. Russell bailed Shawn Camp out of trouble in the seventh and kept his ERA at 0.00. Russell struck out three of the first four he faced before giving up a single to pinch hitter Kyle Blanks and a double to Everth Cabrera in the eighth.
Gregg took it from there, and he's 4-for-4 in save chances.
"A calming presence for sure," Samardzija said of Gregg. "Just his demeanor and the way he goes about his work every day. He was with us a few years ago (2009). We knew that he was, and that's what he was all about.
"He comes in and throws strikes and pitches down in the zone. Anytime you add another strong guy to your bullpen, it makes your bullpen that much deeper."
Gregg was coming off knee surgery in '09, and he no doubt he got worn down by then-manager Lou Piniella, even though he never complained.
Carlos Marmol warmed up in Monday's eighth, but Sveum stuck with Gregg. Although today's relievers like to "know their roles," it's hard for them to argue with the end results Sveum is getting.
"There's pros and cons to both ways," Gregg said. "You name a closer, and you definitely allow guys to slot into positions where they're comfortable and know what they're preparing for.
"Sometimes, that also has a backfire on some guys in that knowing, the anxiety kind of gets to them a little bit. We'll see how it plays out.
"Late in the game in the seventh inning and late in the game in the ninth inning are two different animals. You've got to know what guys are comfortable with, what situations they're going to be successful in."
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