MILWAUKEE — It might be early, but the Cubs aren’t wasting time trying to fix a bullpen that has been the biggest problem on the way to their worst seven-game start in 22 years.
Two of the relievers struggling the most — right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. and left-hander Mike Montgomery — were out by game time Saturday, replaced by righty Allen Webster and lefty Kyle Ryan from Class AAA Iowa.
Edwards, who has been one of the Cubs’ best relievers since joining the team from the minors during their 2016 championship season, was optioned to Iowa after a miserable four-appearance start to his season.
Montgomery, the swingman who saved last season with a career-high 19 starts, was put on the 10-day injured list rather than continue to pitch through a “mild lat strain.”
Edwards, who got the first two outs of the 10th inning of Game 7 in the 2016 World Series as a rookie, gave up a two-run homer to the first of three batters he faced in a 13-10 loss to the Brewers on Friday night. He has retired only five of 13 batters faced this season.
“I just think it will benefit him fundamentally and then mentally also to just get a break and kind of reset, then come up really focused on just attacking and throwing strikes,” team president Theo Epstein said of a pitcher who produced a 2.81 ERA the last two years with 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings (5.3 walks per nine). “He hasn’t looked like himself. He’s had a hard time finding the zone early, and they’re getting better swings off him than you typically see off C.J. when he’s himself.
“So rather than trying to pick our spots to try to get some work in here in low-leverage spots, given what’s going on, and our need for arms, he’s one of the few guys with options left. It seemed to make sense to give him that reset and also get some fresh arms here, a couple guys that really threw well in spring training.”
Montgomery, who missed time early in spring training because of a sore shoulder, said the lat issue is unrelated. He said it started bothering him Thursday night and was optimistic it would be a short-term IL stint. He said he did not have an MRI exam.
Through Friday’s sixth consecutive loss, the Cubs’ bullpen has an 8.54 ERA — second-worst in the majors — with 21 walks in 26 1/3 innings and blown saves in all three chances by three pitchers.
“It’s been real close to, if not, a worst-case scenario for us defensively and in terms of pitching, especially the strike throwing,” said Epstein, whose club committed its 12th error in Saturday’s first inning on a catcher’s interference call against Victor Caratini.
“That gets your attention in a negative way.”
Class AAA pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster to add Webster, who expected to get the call at some point this season but not necessarily after just one appearance in the minors.