Even in this “Age of Urgency” in which the Chicago Cubs find themselves, there’s one thing they probably need to do:
Yes, the Cubs wanted to get off to a good start. They have not, at least to this point. But if they regroup and end up going 18-10 over March-April, will that be considered a good start?
The Cubs haven’t even made one full turn in their pitching rotation yet — No. 5 starter Jose Quintana pitches Friday night’s series opener at Milwaukee; Quintana did work 4 innings of relief in a game started by Yu Darvish last Saturday in Texas.
So let’s give it a couple of turns through to see where the staff stands.
As all Cubs fans know by now, team president Theo Epstein came out firing after last year’s wild-card-game loss, saying the Cubs needed a sense of urgency, and we’ve had the whole “October begins in March” thing.
Urgency is fine, but baseball is played in a controlled, even manner since there are 162 games over six months.
Ace starter Jon Lester seemed to say as much after the Cubs blew a lead for him Wednesday night, losing 6-4 in Atlanta.
“Everybody goes through ups and downs,” Lester told reporters. “There’s going to be times where our rotation goes through a turn or two where we get our butts kicked and our bullpen’s going to have to step up and pick us up. And there’s going to be times where we have to step up and pick up our other guys.
“Nobody’s giving up on anybody down there. We’re all competing together. I know it’s early and whatever, but we’ll be fine.”
Sure, there are concerns. The setup men in the bullpen have not pitched well. How do you figure their most reliable guy from last year, Steve Cishek, walking the first three hitters in the eighth inning Wednesday? You don’t.
Now, for anybody thinking that the Cubs signing free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel for $100 million (not happening) will solve their problems, it wouldn’t prevent the recent meltdowns of Cishek or Carl Edwards Jr.
The biggest problem is that closer Brandon Morrow is on the injured list and won’t be ready until May. Until then, ace eighth-inning man Pedro Strop has to be held back to work the ninth.
Both Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have told media outlets in recent days that solutions to the Cubs’ bullpen woes are likely to come from within.
“The average fan of every major-league team is worried about the bullpen,” Epstein told reporters in Atlanta. “We’ve had one of the best bullpens in baseball the last four years, and there’s probably been a grand total of about three days where people haven’t been worried about the bullpen.
“That’s just the way it works because you don’t usually notice when they’re getting outs on a consistent basis.”
And even Epstein, Mr. Urgency himself, urged calm in this violent sea.
“Every game is not a referendum on the season or the team’s play,” he said. “Everything that our players were talking about and we were talking about this off-season sort of relates to attitude and preparation. That’s been really good. Our guys are showing up, wanting to put their best foot forward and compete every night.
“It’s still baseball. Nothing we were talking about this off-season — or that has become this narrative that I hope will die really soon and we get into the flow of the season — relates to outcome on a particular night.
“We’re going to win a couple games this year 18-1. We’re not going to be as good as we look on that night. Hopefully, we don’t play a game worse than we played the other night (when the Cubs made 6 errors).
“But we’re going to play some stinkers. We’re not going to be as bad as we looked on that night. It’s 162 games and things are going to happen.”
So relax. But if the Brewers sweep the Cubs this weekend …