Not since the days Dusty Baker was running up the "pitcher abuse points" on Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have pitch counts become such a hot topic with the Cubs.
Current manager Rick Renteria doesn't have enough body of work to have developed a reputation for working pitchers.
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But the first-year boss did raise eyebrows -- and a lot of discussion -- Monday night by allowing staff ace Jeff Samardzija to throw a career-high 126 pitches in a 3-1, 12-inning loss to the White Sox. In Tuesday night's second game of the Crosstown Cup series, Edwin Jackson threw 93 pitches over 7 innings as the Cubs allowed 4 runs over the final two innings to fall 5-1.
Samardzija threw those pitches over 9 innings, and in fairness to Renteria, several of his innings were low-stress.
Renteria talked at length about the pros and cons of his decision. General manager Jed Hoyer said the matter was discussed, but he stressed, so to speak, the issue of stress, rather than the raw number.
"In general, you don't like to see a guy get up that high," Hoyer said. "You hope you can get through it before that. That said, I also think that pitch counts in general, it's a number.
"We don't have enough knowledge at what number things turn into danger. Because of that, we try to focus on pitch stress. In the minor leagues, that's all we really focus on.
"It's a lot different to throw pitches with the bases loaded and go out there and throw pitches in high-leverage spots. One hundred twenty-six through 9 innings is not something you want to do very often.
"At the same time, I don't think I have more concern about 126 through 9 innings than I do about 94 pitches in 4⅓. You see that on a fairly regular basis. I don't think we have all the answers when it comes to pitch counts."
Renteria acknowledged there was some risk in sending Samardzija out for the ninth inning with his pitch count at 107. If not for an inning-ending double play, that pitch count could have soared past 130.
He also said he's not sure he'd do it again.
"In the end, I put myself, and I put his health in jeopardy potentially," Renteria said. "If this is down the road, I couldn't do this to him every single time he goes out there.
"That would be ridiculous. Why would I put him in jeopardy by doing this continually? It's easier for me down to the road possibly to say, 'You know what? I won't do it again because I've already done it to him once.'
"If I do it to him twice, three times, four times, before you know it, he's throwing 130-140 pitches every outing. That's ridiculous."
As for Jackson, he enjoyed his best start of the season, allowing 6 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out nine.
Reliever Neil Ramirez gave up a solo homer to Gordon Beckham to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth. In the ninth, Pedro Strop was charged with 3 runs, and he had to leave the game with a groin injury. Strop will have an MRI on Wednesday.