Cubs' bullpen gets much-needed work

Cahill, Ramirez, Richard combine for 2 1/3 IP in Saturday's loss to Reds

Cubs' bullpen gets much-needed work

CINCINNATI -- Cubs relievers finally got some work in on Saturday.

Chicago's bullpen has pitched the fewest innings in the Major Leagues at 40 after Saturday's 13-5 loss to the Reds. The relievers had been effective, holding opponents to a .158 batting average against, best in the National League.

On Saturday, Trevor Cahill, Neil Ramirez and Clayton Richard were needed to finish up when starter John Lackey was lifted after 5 2/3 innings. The three combined to serve up seven earned runs over 2 1/3 innings.

"I thought Ramirez threw the ball pretty good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the right-hander, who did strike out the side. "He threw the ball well, velocity-wise. Richard, we kind of booted the ball around for him, uncharacteristically. Guys got work in who had not gotten work in. There's something good about that also."

The Cubs' four long men -- Richard, Cahill, Adam Warren, and Travis Wood -- haven't been stretched out.

"It's a good problem to have and I'm not complaining about it," Maddon said.

The Cubs' starting pitchers have 15 quality starts through 18 games, and the shortest outing so far has been 5 1/3 innings by Kyle Hendricks last Wednesday.

"Our starters have done such a wonderful job there hasn't been a need to go multiple innings for the other guys," Maddon said.

The relievers will just have to stay ready some other way.

"I tell myself, let the game dictate to you what it wants you to do," Maddon said. "Right now, we're in a good run with the starting pitchers. Hopefully, that lasts a long time. It probably won't, so just be prepared for that particular moment."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.