Kevin Gregg solidifies closer role, likes makeup of Cubs
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org May 20, 2013 9:36PM
Cubs closer Kevin Gregg pumps his fist after recording the final out and getting a save as the Chicago Cubs scored a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday May 7, 2013 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
The facts: 6:05 p.m., CSN,
The pitchers: Matt Garza (season debut) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Wednesday: 6:05 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 3.49) vs. Francisco Liriano
Thursday: 11:35 a.m., CSN,
720-AM. Edwin Jackson (1-6, 5.76) vs. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.78).
Updated: May 20, 2013 9:53PM
The Cubs are starting games off with a surprisingly strong rotation that figures to get even better with right-hander Matt Garza’s return Tuesday. And they are finishing games off better since the unexpected return of Kevin Gregg.
After shuffling the closer role among Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa and a committee of others, manager Dale Sveum seems to have found his go-to man.
‘‘[Gregg] has been perfect [in six save opportunities],’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He’s a guy who’s been in that situation many times in his career, and he knows how to get those last three outs.’’
Gregg’s first time in a Cubs uniform was in 2009, when he went 5-6 with 23 saves and a 4.72 ERA in what was an all-around disappointing season for the team. But after three seasons in the American League with the Toronto Blue Jays (37 saves) and Baltimore Orioles (22 saves), Gregg found his way back to Wrigley Field after the Los Angeles Dodgers determined they didn’t have room for him in their bullpen despite his 0.82 ERA in 11 innings during spring training.
‘‘I love the vibe that’s here,’’ Gregg said of his desire to return to the Cubs. ‘‘I love the attitude, the approach. I wish everybody else had the same opinion. I think people on the outside look at us as a rebuilding team because of last year, so a lot of fans and media are looking at what is two or three or four years down the road. Well, as players, we’re about now. We want to do it now. We see potential in this clubhouse now.’’
After signing a minor-league contract with the Cubs on April 15 and being promoted to the majors, Gregg has made 11 appearances and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 10 innings. He notched his 150th career save May 12 against the Washington Nationals. The bullpen had only four saves in 13 opportunities before he took over as closer.
‘‘Closing is a mind-set,’’ Gregg said. ‘‘You have to want those three outs and handle those three outs without letting the emotions get involved, without letting the game speed up on you. It’s something I’ve done for a while and where I’m comfortable.’’
The opportunities are coming because the rest of the pitching is jelling, he said.
‘‘It starts with the starters,’’ Gregg said. ‘‘Those are five quality arms. And we have Garza coming back, so it’s six guys who can pitch well. That allows the bullpen to be put into the right position.’’
Gregg’s success might make him more valuable to a contending team as the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 draws near.
‘‘I don’t really think about it because that’s trying to predict the future, and you can’t,’’ he said. ‘‘This team could put together a pretty good win streak and pretty good couple of months, and then you’re in a whole different position on where you want to be at the end of July. That would allow us to make [Cubs management] make the decision of what they want to do and how they want to go about this rebuilding process.’’
Gregg is among the players who sees a promising summer ahead.
‘‘Is this an All-Star-studded lineup?’’ he said. ‘‘No, but does it have potential? It does. I just wish this team could get more credit. We’re not a 100-loss team. We’re a team that can compete every day. Even in the losses, we’re not being blown out. We have a chance to win every game. I wish people would start to focus on, ‘These guys are competing. We can do this.’ ’’