Dale Sveum’s tenure with the Chicago Cubs is only two games old, but he’s mishandled his bullpen in the same way in both games.
On Opening Day, Dempster pitched 7 2/3 brilliant innings before turning the ball over to Kerry Wood in the 8th inning with a 1-0 lead. Wood walked Ryan Zimmerman, but remained in the game to face left-handed cleanup man Adam LaRoche. Wood walked LaRoche and then walked Jayson Werth to blow the save before getting out of the eighth inning.
I don’t understand why Wood was allowed to face LaRoche. We only have one lefty in the bullpen but what’s the point of having a lefty at all if you’re not going to use him in this kind of situation? If James Russell doesn’t get LaRoche, then Sveum could’ve turned to Marmol to face the right-handed Werth for the final out of the eighth inning, en route to a four-out save attempt.
After the game, I speculated that there were a number of reasons why Sveum didn’t go this route. One thought was that he doesn’t want Marmol to attempt a save longer than three outs. Another thought was that Sveum didn’t want to play matchups in the eighth inning because he broke camp with just eleven pitchers. Had he burned two of his relievers in the eighth inning, it might’ve gotten awkward in the case that the game went into extra innings.
As it turns out, neither of these were a concern for Sveum. He just felt like leaving Wood in to face LaRoche. This was evidenced by what happened today, in the second game of the season.
Before the game, Rodrigo Lopez was added to the Major League roster which gave Sveum twelve pitchers again. But, after Danny Espinoza homered off of Wood and Zimmerman singled to draw the Nationals within a run, Sveum reacted the same way that he did on Opening Day: Wood faced LaRoche and failed to retire him. Except this time, Marmol was brought in to face Werth; this time, Marmol was called upon to convert the four-out save.
Of course, my arguments might seem moot because Marmol imploded as much as Wood did in both games; the Nationals put together game-winning rallies both times and our closer. But that’s not the point. As the manager, Sveum’s job is to put his guys in the best position to succeed and he isn’t doing that.