The Rundown: Gonzalez Germen Called Up to Help Taxed Pen, Cubs Looking Good on Base Paths, Starlin Castro is a Hit Machine

It was another good weekend of baseball, even though the Cubs dropped their first series of the year, losing two out of three games to the Padres. Really, the Cubs were only one bad Brian Schlitter pitch away from winning the series. And even in yesterday’s 5-2 loss, they mounted a two-out rally to bring Jorge Soler to the plate as the tying run.

The Padres are a solid club, so it was nice to see the Cubs hold their own. Cubs pitchers just repeatedly failed to put away Padres hitters after two strikes. The visitors came up with a countless number of huge hits in those situations.

The main worry I have at this point for the Cubs’ near future is the bullpen, which is funny considering it was a major strength of this team to begin the year.

But that was before Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez went on the disabled list; those injuries have significantly shortened the ‘pen. Bringing in Brian Schlitter or Jason Motte in a tight game instead of Grimm or Ramirez makes a big difference.

With Saturday’s extra-innings affair and the Cubs’ starters in general not going deep in games, the workload is stacking up for the relievers.

Cubs call up Gonzalez Germen

To help alleviate the bullpen workload problem, the Cubs made a roster move before yesterday’s game. They recalled RHP Gonzalez Germen from Triple-A Iowa and sent down outfielder Matt Szczur.

Germen was claimed off waivers from the Rangers this winter. Prior to that, he appeared in 54 games over the past couple of years with the Mets. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, RHP Jacob Turner was transferred to the 60-day DL.

It’s too bad Szczur had to be the roster casualty, but with the Cubs calling up Chris Denorfia on Friday, it makes sense. Szczur hit .200/.357/.300 in eight games, but had three walks (compared to only two strikeouts) and two stolen bases.

I would imagine we’ll see him back up with the big club at some point this year.

More things to get excited about

Two bright spots for the Cubs so far this year have been their baserunning and ability to see a lot of pitches per at-bat.

They have 13 stolen bases, which puts them at the top of the National League, and Joe Maddon has called for a number of successful hit-and-runs already. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cubs remain this aggressive throughout the year, or if this is a product of it being April, when hits are theoretically harder to come by.

The Cubs don’t have a ton of burners on the base paths, but I like what I’m seeing so far.

Going into yesterday’s game, the Cubs were leading the National League in pitches seen per plate appearance, at 3.95. They were at it again yesterday against Padres starter Andrew Cashner, forcing him to throw more than 30 pitches in the first inning (although some bad defense didn’t help him).

Cashner only made it through six innings, but the Cubs weren’t able to solve the Padres bullpen. I still like their chances, however, if this approach continues.

Other notes

* With a single in Sunday’s game, Starlin Castro has recorded a hit in all but four of his last 38 games played, dating back to last season. It’s easy to forget, but at the end of last season when the Cubs were playing some very solid baseball, Castro wasn’t even in the lineup — he went on the DL on Sept. 2 and missed the remainder of the year. It’s great to have him back, now hitting with the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant.

* The White Sox will call up LHP Carlos Rodon today, according to Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal says Rodon, who the White Sox drafted last year with the third overall pick — right before the Cubs took Kyle Schwarber — will initially work out of the bullpen. I doubt that will last long, as the Sox have some serious question marks in their fourth and fifth rotation spots.

* Albert Almora had a great night on Saturday for Double-A Tennessee. He went 5-for-5 with a double, RBI and a run scored. Hitting third behind Almora was Kyle Schwarber, who went 0-2 but walked three times. The Smokies beat Pensacola 7-3.

* Trevor Clifton, an over-slot draft pick from 2013, went five scoreless innings yesterday for the South Bend Cubs. He gave up only one hit and struck out seven.

* Really great “only-in-baseball” moment in yesterday’s game, in which a come-backer got stuck in Jon Lester’s glove. So, what to do? Just throw the entire glove to first:


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