Ross faces tricky decisions with three former starters in bullpen
Cubs manager David Ross has several options for long relievers this season. But when the starting pitcher is rolling, then what?
He used Keegan Thompson for a single inning in Thursday's opening-day victory. On Saturday, he tried to go two innings with Javier Assad and it backfired. Assad pitched a scoreless seventh inning, then was tagged for 3 runs in the eighth.
"Bottom of the order, he's looked really good. he cruised through the seventh. He's looked sharp all the way through the WBC and spring, has been one of our better pitchers," Ross said of Assad. "So I had no hesitation sending him back out."
The lower part of the Brewers order was no advantage as Brian Anderson led off with a single, Garrett Mitchell walked, then pinch-hitter Jesse Winker tied the game with a well-placed ground ball past second base.
Assad coaxed a ground out with the runners holding, then gave way to Michael Fulmer. He gave up a walk, loading the bases, struck out Christian Yelich, then surrendered a soft line single to William Contreras, Willson's younger brother, to drive home the decisive runs in the 3-1 loss.
Before the game, Ross talked about how he might handle having three potential long relievers in the pen -- Thompson, Assad and Adbert Alzolay.
"I don't think I'm in a position to define how I'm going to use (Thompson), because I think it could vary," Ross said. "As we get into the season it's going to be who's healthy and who's available.
"If somebody loads up a right lineup on one of our lefty pitchers we have a real weapon down there in Adbert, who has dominated righties. That could be a play. I think there's a lot of scenarios."
I-Cubs start fast:
The Triple A Iowa Cubs opened the regular season with four or five players that would have been widely expected to start the season in Chicago a few months ago.
In Iowa's 11-5 victory over Columbus on Friday. Christopher Morel led off the game with a triple and finished 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. David Bote and Matt Mervis his back-to-back home runs in the fourth innings. Mervis had a home run, double, two walks and was hit by a pitch in five plate appearances.
Fremd High School grad Mike Tauchman went 3-for-5 at the plate while Mundelein's Ryan Borucki was the winning pitcher in relief of starter Adrian Sampson.
Iowa beat Columbus 4-3 in 10 innings on Saturday. Morel had a double, but he and Mervis each struck out three times.
Rounding the bases:
Thursday's game time of 2:21 made it the Cubs' shortest home opener since 1974, when Bill Bonham tossed a complete-game 2-0 shutout of the Phillies in 2:09. The opposing pitcher that day was future White Sox GM Ron Schueler. Saturday's game lasted 2:32. ...
In rehab news, Seiya Suzuki (oblique) is expected to start taking game at-bats in Arizona in the next few days. LHP Brandon Hughes (knee) will throw live batting practice Sunday. RHP Kyle Hendricks (shoulder) threw a bullpen session Friday and should begin facing hitters soon.