The Cubs only made one change to their NLCS roster on Saturday, removing left-handed reliever Justin Wilson for right-hander Hector Rondon. The change doesn’t appear to be dependent on the southpaw’s postseason track record — he closed out a Game 4 loss with a scoreless ninth inning last Wednesday — but on his abysmal performance during the regular season.
Wilson, 30, started the year strong with the Tigers. He recorded 13 saves with a 2.68 ERA in 40 1/3 innings and was dealt to the Cubs at the deadline for Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes and a player to be named later. Following the trade, however, he immediately began to tank, finishing the year with a 5.09 ERA, 9.7 BB/9 and 12.7 SO/9 through 17 2/3 innings.
That, more than anything, made Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon wary of using the lefty in the upcoming Championship Series. With Jose Quintana working on one day of rest and fellow reliever Wade Davis maxed out after a 2 1/3-inning outing on Thursday, the Cubs are expected to go to the bullpen early and often as they look for an advantage over the Dodgers. In Wilson’s absence, they’ll turn to right-hander Hector Rondon, who exited the regular season with a 4.24 ERA and made seven postseason appearances for the club in 2016, earning one win and one hold with eight hits, three runs and five strikeouts over six innings.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.
Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.
Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.
The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.