Cubs president Jed Hoyer on bullpen construction: ‘I’ve put Rossy in a tough spot’

Hoyer’s vote of confidence won’t stop disgruntled fans from channeling their frustrations toward manager David Ross. Winning will.

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Jed Hoyer tried to deflect some of the blame manager David Ross has been receiving for the Cubs’ bullpen woes.

Jed Hoyer tried to deflect some of the blame manager David Ross has been receiving for the Cubs’ bullpen woes.

David Banks/Getty Images

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has given his vote of confidence to manager David Ross whenever asked this season. On Tuesday, Hoyer took it a step further.

Fans have voiced plenty of frustration with Ross this season, but the most consistent complaints have revolved around bullpen management.

“I’ve put Rossy in a tough spot to a certain extent,” Hoyer said.

When Hoyer and his front office went about supplementing the bullpen this offseason, they followed a similar script to recent years. Going into 2021 and 2022, the Cubs signed veteran relievers Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, Chris Martin, Mychal Givens and David Robertson, then traded them.

“We’ve, candidly, done a really good job of finding relievers that could come in and throw high-leverage innings at a relatively low cost on one-year deals,” Hoyer said. “And we’ve been building bullpens that way for a while. And this year, that hasn’t worked yet.

“And that’s on me.”

The Cubs brought in Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger as their veteran relievers on one-year deals. But Fulmer has had an up-and-down season and ran into some bad luck. Boxberger is on the 15-day injured list with a strained right forearm. Ross has adjusted his strategy accordingly with mixed results. Entering Tuesday, the Cubs bullpen’s 4.50 ERA ranked 24th in the majors.

“I love working with him every day; we’ve got a great rapport,” Hoyer said, adding that he, general manager Carter Hawkins and senior vice president of pitching Craig Breslow are in contact with Ross, bench coach Andy Green and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy every day. “The goal is always to get better. The goal is to make sure we’re maximizing our personnel. And it’s still May 23. We’ll get there.”

Hoyer’s words won’t stop disgruntled fans from channeling their frustrations toward Ross. Winning would.

On Tuesday, the Cubs took the first step in dragging themselves out of a rut, beating the Mets 7-2. Christopher Morel extended his home-run streak to five games. Seiya Suzuki and Matt Mervis added long balls of their own, Mervis with the first Wrigley Field homer of his career.

Starter Drew Smyly was charged with two runs in five-plus innings, and relievers Jeremiah Estrada, Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr. and Fulmer kept the Mets at bay.

The bullpen could still evolve.

“We have a lot of power arms in the minors and in the organization,” Hoyer said.

The Cubs continue adding to that depth. They sent right-hander Daniel Palencia to their Arizona complex to transition from a starter to a reliever and assigned him to Triple-A Iowa.

“He’s a guy that fits that bill,” Hoyer said. “He’s up to 102 [mph]; he’s got off-speed pitches. . . . It’s nice to have those kinds of arms. And we’ll be transitioning some of those guys into the bullpen for weeks and months to come.”

Then there’s right-hander Codi Heuer (Tommy John surgery), who’s on a rehab assignment in Iowa. Hoyer said he couldn’t pinpoint when Heuer will return from the 60-day injured list, citing some inconsistency. But when Heuer is activated, he’s expected to provide a midseason boost.

If the Cubs turn around their first half, they could decide to add at the trade deadline.

“Every team is thinking about [the deadline],” Hoyer said, “in one direction or the other.”

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