It’s DL, not Iowa, for Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter July 29, 2014 10:35PM
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: Neil Ramirez #54 of the Chicago Cubs (L) shakes hands with Welington Castillo #5 after a win against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on June 24, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Reds 7-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 477585537
Updated: July 30, 2014 12:17AM
The strange case of reliever Neil Ramirez got stranger Tuesday, leading to more questions about how first-year Cubs manager Rick Renteria has handled the bullpen.
General manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday that the Cubs decided to put Ramirez on the disabled list. Three days earlier, Renteria said Ramirez had been demoted to Class AAA Iowa to rest.
Ramirez experienced soreness in his triceps after pitching Friday, said Hoyer, who expects the right-hander to spend no more than the minimum 15 days on the DL.
‘‘He’s going to be fine,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘But it was probably the right way to handle it once he was sore.’’
Especially compared with telling the guy with the second-best ERA in the majors (minimum of
20 innings) that he’s going to the minor leagues to avoid overuse.
Ramirez, who never left Chicago, had a 0.96 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 28 innings over 33 appearances when he was moved off the active roster Saturday.
Hoyer said the players’ union didn’t dispute the original move, but he acknowledged, ‘‘We talked to those guys a little bit.’’ The DL move negates the minor-league option, and Ramirez retains continuous major-league service time and pay.
Whether it’s more about medicine or preventative medicine, the whole scenario again raised the issue of Renteria’s handling of the pitching staff in his first year as a big-league manager. Several pitchers have grumbled about it, especially after Renteria said Saturday that the Cubs might use a Class AAA shuttle with other relievers, too, to alleviate workloads.
One longtime evaluator, when asked how good Renteria is at managing a bullpen, said: ‘‘Great — as long as he has 15 guys in the pen.’’
Hoyer defended his manager when asked about concerns stemming from Renteria’s apparent reliever-protection plans.
‘‘No concern at all,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘I think he’s done a good job. I think we’ve put him in a really difficult spot because we’ve kind of had to carry an extra reliever for a lot of the year.’’
The Cubs have had an eighth reliever for most of the season and as many as nine for stretches since the trade July 4 of starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
‘‘We do have some restrictions on these guys that we don’t exactly make public,’’ Hoyer said.
In the case of Ramirez, the Cubs decided that after the All-Star break, they would try to use him only with a lead late in the game.
That never got a chance to
become policy. The Cubs were swept in the first series out of the break, and Ramirez went to the mound trailing in close games the first and third days of the series.
Ramirez didn’t work again for five days, when he pitched a scoreless eighth inning Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals to help preserve a one-run lead that held up.
Hoyer said the blame is less on Renteria and more on the Cubs having a bullpen of young power pitchers, many of whom are doing the first relief pitching of their careers.
‘‘So we try not to get these guys up and down. If we get them up, we try to get them in a game,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘We try not to use them too much, whether it’s back-to-back or certainly three out of four.
‘‘If you have a veteran bullpen, all those considerations kind of go out the window. So I think every night is sort of like putting a puzzle
together as far as who’s available, and you can’t really get a guy up sometimes and leave him up or get him up three or four times in a game.
‘‘So I think we’ve given [Renteria] a tough task with some of these young guys. I think it’ll pay off down the road because we do have a lot of young power arms, but I think that first year with those guys is somewhat difficult.’’