Eight Men, Out: Cubs Release Bourjos After Opting for Bigger Pen

Though Joe Maddon had spoken very highly of Peter Bourjos earlier in the week, the Cubs have released the 31-year-old after deciding to go with an eight-man bullpen. There might have been room had they broken camp with only seven relievers, but that likely would have been a short-term situation that would have inevitably seen Bourjos without a spot after a couple weeks at the most.

The veteran outfielder came into Friday’s game (in which he was 1-for-2 with an RBI single) slashing .317/.356/.366 this spring and still has enough speed to patrol center, so he’s got a good chance at catching on with another club before the start of the season. Speaking of catching, that’s one of the few questions left to answer with less than a week to go before Opening Day.

As we’ve discussed more than once here, Chris Gimenez seems to make the most sense when you consider Maddon’s appreciation for that steady veteran presence. Like Bourjos, Victor Caratini’s shot to break camp with the Cubs may have evaporated with the news of the bigger staff. The young, switch-hitting backstop is clearly talented enough and has nothing to prove in AAA, he just may not be the best fit right now.

And that leaves the last bullpen spot, which righty Justin Hancock is doing his best to run away with. The hard-throwing 27-year-old pitched two hitless innings in Friday’s win over the Brewers, closing the game out and dropping his spring ERA to 1.35 in the process. He’s now racked up seven strikeouts against three walks and has allowed only two hits over 6.2 innings.

Going by stats alone would give us more than enough to elevate Hancock over Anthony Bass, whose 1.59 ERA might be slightly unsustainable. He’s allowed 10 hits in 5.2 innings, good for a 1.76 WHIP. On the other hand, Bass hasn’t walked anyone this spring and boasts a little more experience both domestically and abroad.

If the Cubs are looking for upside, Hancock is the choice. If, however, they’re looking for a steady character who isn’t afraid of either failure or throwing strikes, Bass could be the guy. Or maybe it’s still Eddie Butler. And let’s not forget the possibility of picking up a pitcher who was cast off like Bourjos.

Ah, the intrigue of the back end of the Opening Day roster.

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