ST. LOUIS – Whether the Cubs get that shiny new starting pitcher they want anytime soon, they at least have reinforcements on the way for the bullpen and the scuffling lineup.
After spot starter Donn Roach lasted just 3 1/3 innings in an 8-1 loss to the rival Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday night, the Cubs put the wheels in motion to activate key bullpen right-hander Neil Ramirez (shoulder) from the disabled list.
Ramirez, who was a major part of the Cubs’ late-inning success last season, is expected to be in the bullpen Sunday night for the first time since April 15.
As for a lineup that hasn’t scored more than two runs in a game since Monday, the return from the DL of rookie right-fielder Jorge Soler (ankle) is finally on the near horizon.
Soler is to start a minor-league rehab assignment early in the week and, barring a setback, return to the Cubs’ lineup as early as next weekend’s home series against the Marlins. He’s been on the DL four weeks.
“He can make a huge impact,” manager Joe Maddon said on the night his team went 1-for-7 with men in scoring position – making it just 4-for-32 (.125) in those scoring situations over the last six games. “It lengthens your lineup. It really presents a different look to the other side. And of course he can really get off and go crazy offensively.”
Cubs officials on Saturday night were still discussing the corresponding move for Ramirez, with the likeliest being to option Roach back to AAA Iowa.
If the Cubs choose to skip that fifth spot in the rotation next time through, as expected, they wouldn’t need a fifth starter until Saturday at home against Miami.
By then, lefty Tsuyoshi Wada (shoulder) will be ready or on the disabled list – in which case the Cubs have the option of exempting Roach from the required 10-day stay in the minors and bringing him back as an injury replacement.
Maddon said Wada reported feeling better Saturday but the club was no closer to determining when he’ll pitch next.
Offensive production has suddenly become as big an issue as starting pitching for a team that matched its season-high losing streak with a fourth consecutive loss Saturday – scoring a total of five runs during the streak.
They scored only one in their last win – and it took 10 innings to do that, Tuesday against the Dodgers. On Saturday, their only run was driven in by Roach on a bases-loaded single to right in the second.
The production has been that paltry despite averaging nine hits and 3 ½ walks per game during the skid.
“It’s been there,” Maddon said. ”We just have to do better.”
NOTES: The Cubs optioned right-hander Yoervis Medina (five scoreless innings without a walk) to AAA Iowa to make room on the 25-man roster for Roach Saturday; they designated AAA catcher Rafael Lopez for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. … The Cubs on Friday night lost a game after leading in the eighth inning for the first time in 28 such games this season. … In eight meetings against the Cardinals this season, the Cubs have led in six of the games. They’ve won two. … Recently signed reliever Rafael Soriano, the former All-Star closer, still is working out at the Cubs’ Dominican Republic facility as he waits out the long visa process to allow him to start pitching in the U.S.