Saturday, June 05, 2004  
New Closer?: Dusty May Have Just Tipped His Hand.

The Cubs get a much needed win today, courtesy of an inept Pittsburgh defense. For the second straight day, the Cubs offense decided that they need to make their starting pitcher nervous due to a lack of run support. Yesterday it cost Mark Prior a win. Today it could have cost Carlos Zambrano a win. He gave the Cubs seven strong, and was all but out of the game down 1-0, until Pittsburgh makes a costly error that opened the floodgates to a three run 7th inning. Until that inning, the Cubs offense could only manage a pathetic 2 hits. I'm sorry, but this is the Pirates pitching staff, not an all-star staff. We should be able to consistently manage at least 4-5 runs against this staff.

June is the toughest month in terms of schedule that the Cubs will face all year. Scoring a minimal amount of runs in that stretch could kill us. To compound that potential problem, the Cubs are also facing the current problem of what will happen in close, late game situations. There have been many fans and writers who have been calling for Joe Borowski's head on a platter. Dusty, however, has been patient, seeing his closer's ERA balloon to over 8. It seems though that the hammer, delivering Borowski's sentence may finally be dropping. In today's Chicago Tribune, Paul Sullivan talks about the fact that Baker may be considering a change in the closer's role.

"Baker declined to give Borowski his usual vote of confidence after the game. 'I'll think about it and make a decision,' Baker said."
In today's game, fresh off that interview, with the Cubs up 3-1, going into the bottom of the 8th, a peak into the bullpen revealed not Average Joe, but Latroy Hawkins. Thankfully, no closer was necessarily, as the Cubs put up 3 additional runs to seal the victory. In the end, Francis Beltran, who has been a very nice addition to the pen this year, closed the game out in the ninth.

The hand Dusty holds may have been tipped, however. He may have showed the fans, and the team who is new closer is going to be. Borrowski's blown save yesterday to lose a game for Prior may have sealed his fate.
"Nobody ever said baseball is an easy game. Whatever [Baker] decides is whatever he decides. I'm not going to worry about what might happen or what can happen or anything like that. I can't worry about things I can't control. Whatever is best for this team at this time is fine. Dusty is the manager, and he has the right to do whatever he wants. I'll respect what he does. Hopefully he'll have that belief in me and stick me out there next time."
Borowski never moved from his seat in the bullpen today, not even to stretch out his arm in the event that he may have been used today. Was Dusty simply resting Average Joe, or is he finally at the end of his patience? One thing is certain, the Cubs season is going to depend on what they do this month. Dusty knows that. Hopefully he also knows when enough is enough. We'll just have to wait, see, and hope.

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