The Cubs’ dancing bullpen was so popular at home games last season that the team will be giving away “Dancing Bullpen beverage tumblers” before a game
against the Brewers near the end of the month.
But to hear “Dancing With the Bullpen” star Carl Edwards Jr. talk the last couple of days, the promotional tumbler might be outdated by the time anybody sees one.
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It seems the Cubs’ relievers are too good these days for such frivolity just because a teammate hits a home run. Edwards suggested the bullpen guys might only dance for “big” home runs — and he made no promises about what will be considered big enough.
The postponement of the home opener Monday kept fans from possibly finding out, but we can certainly see where this is going.
“No, we’re not big-leaguing the dancing,” Edwards said with a smile. “We’ve just got to get a little bit more choreography, man.”
“You’ll be surprised,” he said. “We’re keeping a lot of secrets this year. People will be wondering the whole time, ‘I wonder if they’re going to dance.’ ”
Not that the Cubs’ rebuilt bullpen needs such intrigue to keep people watching. In fact, the relief corps was the part of the opening road trip most worth watching. The eight-man crew boasts a major-league-leading 0.94 ERA in 38„ innings, with a streak of 11 consecutive batters retired heading into the season’s first homestand.
“Even from the start, I’ve been saying this is the deepest bullpen I think I’ve ever been a part of,” said side-arming newcomer Steve Cishek, a ninth-year veteran of five big-league teams. “Any one of us can pitch in any situation. And we have all sorts of different looks coming out of there.
“I feel like we’re locked in right now. We just need to keep the momentum going.”
The bullpen hasn’t collectively proven to be the lock-down, pure strike throwers that team president Theo Epstein had talked about adding for 2018. Justin Wilson has looked mostly dominating, but he also reverted to late-2017 troubles with three consecutive walks out of nowhere Friday. And the group ranks in the lower half of the league with 15 walks.
But Edwards seems to have more consistent command, the newcomers have been exceptional and the group has allowed only 23 hits.
And that 0.94 ERA is the lowest for a Cubs bullpen through nine games since 1951.
“I’ll take it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Plus, we have stuff, too.
But the big thing, for me, is we need to throw strikes. We’ve been able to do that so far.”
The bullpen didn’t have a ninth-inning save situation until its eighth game of the season. But then new closer Brandon Morrow suddenly emerged from his first-week slumber to throw 97 mph fastballs and record back-to-back saves against the Brewers on Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee, retiring six of seven batters.
“I feel we’ve got everything we need,” said Edwards, who broke in during the 2016 championship season. “This year, I feel like we have a complete bullpen. We’ve got two guys that can go long. We’ve got a great closer. We’ve got anybody that can set him up.”
The only thing left is the “choreography.”
“Only time will tell,” Edwards said.