Barring a trade or an injury, Lou Piniella has his seven-man bullpen staff set, and the quick return of probable closer Kerry Wood from back spasms only firms up a list that includes only one left-hander, Scott Eyre.
Piniella rattled off the names of the other relievers in his pen before Thursday’s game: Wood, Carlos Marmol, Bob Howry, Michael Wuertz, Kevin Hart and “one of the right-handers who doesn’t make the rotation.”
With Ryan Dempster and Jon Lieber all but assured of nabbing the two rotation openings, that makes Jason Marquis the guy going to the bullpen if he’s not traded.
Piniella’s math also means that Sean Marshall is out when it comes to the Cubs’ opening roster, regardless of what he does in Friday’s start against Colorado and despite a 3.24 ERA. He’s another guy who could be moved in a trade, or he’ll wind up in the minors as important insurance for the rotation.
One easily overlooked byproduct of the equation is that left-hander Carmen Pignatiello, one of only two pitchers left in camp who hasn’t allowed a run this spring, has no chance to make the club.
“Unless there’s a trade here, there’s just not going to be room. Let’s not kid ourselves,” Piniella said. “It’s been a good experience [for Pignatiello], but I just don’t see where there’s room for some of these [young] guys that have pitched well in camp. It’s a shame, but it’s the truth.”
Of course, if there’s a trade, then there’s also the issue of trying to make room for Rule 5 pick Tim Lahey, who despite recent struggles is a strong enough prospect the Cubs would like to try to keep him. But that requires keeping him on the 25-man roster, and unless somebody else is traded, Lahey is more likely to get traded than waived (he’s well regarded enough that he would certainly be claimed and lost for nothing in return if the Cubs waived him).
Not the worst problem a team can have at this point in camp.