Dillon Maples has such tantalizing raw stuff that you can’t help but drool when imagining him put it all together. He’s one of those guys even fans of other teams like to watch pitch, and not just because they know he’ll probably walk at least one batter before throwing two wild pitches to make it a triple. But for all that talent, Maples’ inability to throw strikes has kept him on the shuttle for the last four seasons.
His yo-yo journey continued Thursday when the Cubs optioned him back down to their alternate site at South Bend. The 28-year-old appeared in two games and allowed three runs on one hit and four walks, striking out just one. All four walks came during a disastrous appearance Wednesday night in Cincy that saw him face six batters without retiring anyone.
Taking his place on the 30-man roster is 30-year-old righty Colin Rea, the reigning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year. Rea is perhaps best known for being part of a botched trade in 2016 between the Padres and Marlins in which he made one start for Miami before being injured and sent back to San Diego. That led to an accusation that the Pads kept two sets of medicals for their players in order to hoodwink other teams.
Rea has worked almost exclusively as a starter and doesn’t have anything approaching Maples’ velocity or stuff, so this is a move aimed at providing a little more length and consistency for a bullpen that has been a sore spot in the early going. He won’t miss a lot of bats and isn’t a control freak, but he should be able to keep the ball in the yard and can give the Cubs multiple innings if needed.
David Ross said they need some guys to step up in the bullpen, so maybe this is a way to force one foot in front of the other. But since Rea doesn’t figure to be much of a difference maker, they’re going to have to have some other guys improve as well. Or the Cubs could, like, promote Adbert Alzolay or even Burl Carraway. Not that any moves will matter if their core relievers can’t consistently pitch clean innings.
Oh the joy of monitoring the Cubs bullpen.