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Promising Cubs’ bullpen already taking shape for next season

Updated: August 11, 2013 9:20PM



ST. LOUIS — As the Cubs continue their roster planning for 2014, it’s becoming more clear that their biggest season-killer for two consecutive years could turn into a strength.

A lot will have to do with the way players such as Pedro Strop and Alberto Cabrera look the rest of the season, and how players such as Arodys Vizcaino and Kyuji Fujikawa heal from arm injuries.

But the post-Carlos Marmol, post-Shawn Camp era for the Cubs’ bullpen could have more power arms and command next season than the team has had since the 2008 division winners.

Cabrera, a power pitcher the Cubs used successfully in the Class AA Tennessee rotation much of the season to help refine his pitches, is in the Class AAA Iowa bullpen. He might be called up when rosters expand in September.

The Cubs’ top left-hander, James Russell, will be back, possibly with lefty Chris Rusin, who has impressed as a starter of late.

Vizcaino, who underwent Tommy John surgery but might have the best arm of the bunch, is a likely bullpen candidate as he builds back to full strength.

And Strop, acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in the Scott Feldman trade, already has been mentioned as the heir apparent to closer Kevin Gregg.

“He seems able to handle the eighth inning just fine,” manager Dale Sveum said of Strop, his most dominant reliever since the trade (2.65 ERA in 18 games). “There’s a long way to go. Hopefully, we have seven closers out there.”

Sveum said he plans to see Strop in the ninth inning before the season is over.

Notes

Outfielder Darnell McDonald made his Cubs debut as a pinch hitter Sunday. He drew a walk in the seventh in his first action since July 13 with the New York Yankees.

McDonald is the 50th player to play for the Cubs this season, three short of the franchise record set last year.

Darwin Barney is 9-for-19 with eight RBI in his last five games against the Cardinals.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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