Cubs bullpen off to a solid start; Rizzo likely to DL
One of the biggest areas of concern heading into the Cubs' season was how the bullpen would perform.
Through the first nine games of the season, the relief corps have been one of the strengths of the team.
Entering Monday's snowed-out home opener at Wrigley Field, Cubs relievers had thrown 38⅓ innings, posting a major-league best 0.94 ERA. They had given up 4 earned runs.
Sporting ERAs of 0.00 are Brian Duensing, Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson, who might be the most pleasant early surprise of all after last season's rough two months with the Cubs.
Eddie Butler has an ERA of 1.13, and that includes a 7-inning performance at Miami. Steve Cishek is at 1.69. Carl Edwards Jr. is at 1.80. Mike Montgomery has an ERA of 2.70.
Cubs relievers have given up 23 hits and 15 walks for a WHIP of 0.99.
"I don't see any reason we would have thought otherwise," said closer Morrow, who has 2 saves in 3 appearances. "We have a lot of guys with a lot of good stuff. When we continue to be in the strike zone like we have been, you see the results. Guys are getting quick outs and strikeouts when they need to. They've been eliminating the free passes for the most part, just going in with a lot of confidence and starting the season on the right foot."
Walks were a problem for the bullpen last season, and one of the jobs facing management in the off-season was finding strike throwers to come on in relief.
"I'll take it, plus we've got stuff, too," said manager Joe Maddon. "These guys are throwing strikes. You see Justin Wilson, what he's doing. C.J. (Edwards) throwing strikes is a force. Brandon, not having pitched for a bit, I didn't know what to expect the other day, and was sharp (in Milwaukee over the weekend). He was really sharp for two days in a row. They all look good. Eddie Butler is really surfacing. A lot of them are looking good right now."
Rizzo likely to DL:
First baseman Anthony Rizzo was not in Monday's scheduled lineup as a tight back continues to bother him. It's likely the Cubs will announce that Rizzo will be placed on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to last Friday, April 6, meaning Rizzo will be halfway through the DL stint when it's announced.
Rizzo has not played since last Thursday's series opener at Milwaukee.
Ben Zobrist was in Monday's lineup at first base.
"Talking to Riz yesterday, conversationally, it was getting better," Joe Maddon said.
The new digs, and dugouts:
Joe Maddon said he had yet to check out the new, expanded dugouts, which have been moved farther down the baselines toward the outfield walls. Both the home and visitors dugouts are split level. The new dugouts are part of the overall Wrigley Field renovation.
"I thought we were going to play," Maddon said. "I was going to surprise myself. I'm going to try to get a workout in, and then I'll go look at the new stuff."