The bullpen isn't the only problem the Cubs have.
They've played bad defense all year, and they've not hit with runners in scoring position for the first month. In Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Reds, they not only blew a 4-2 lead, but they also managed just 3 hits.
One player having a particularly hard time is Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney. He was 0-for-3 Saturday, and his line fell to .169/.290/.288 on 10-for-59 hitting. On the current homestand, he's 3-for-17.
Barney worked with manager Dale Sveum and hitting coach James Rowson over the off-season and in spring training, but Sveum doesn't appear to like what he's seeing from Barney.
"A lot of things," Sveum said. "We don't have enough time for it."
Sveum did praise Barney for working hard, but he said the problems at the plate are plentiful.
"Mechanical, more with him," Sveum said. "I don't know if pull is the right word, but the bat head has got to get to a certain point quicker, so to speak. It's a lot of mechanical. The backside needs to be better. I think more aggressiveness but being able to lay off.
"He's been good lately laying off pitches and getting his walks, but we all know there's that fine line. Then balls get too deep and you're 0-2 and had two really good pitches to hit. There's a lot of process that goes into all this, but hitting the fastball is the No. 1 thing you've got to be able to do to be successful in the big leagues."
Running it up:
Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija got a no-decision Saturday. He worked 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs, 1 earned. A walk to Shin-Soo Choo and a throwing error by Samardzija led to an unearned run in the third inning.
Samardzija is 1-4, but with a solid ERA of 3.09. His problem lately has been running up pitch counts. He had 111 in 6 innings against the Reds. He threw 101 pitches in 5 innings during his previous start and 104 in 6 the start before that.
He settled down and economized more as Saturday's game went on.
"Getting back to my fastball, really attacking the zone with my fastball and getting them swinging at it," he said. "It's amazing how that makes all your other pitches that much better. It keeps them off-balance.
"The first few innings, I was back in that rut of throwing off-speed pitches. I just kind of said, 'Enough with that.' We had that 2-run lead, and I really wanted to show our hitters I was appreciative of it and wanted to come and attack the zone and get those guys back in the dugout and get the bats back in their hands.
"The fastball was big for me today. We're getting there."