The Cubs bullpen didn't do anything in its season debut Saturday to ease concerns about whether it can provide the kind of strength this short season promises to require.
But at least one Cubs hitter who scrimmaged against the group the last three weeks offered an over-the-top endorsement on a day five relievers gave up five runs, including three on homers, in five innings during an 8-3 loss to the Brewers.
"Don't sleep on this bullpen," Kyle Schwarber said. "I was wowed facing these guys in summer camp. I was like, `Man, you guys didn't throw this hard in spring training. Where did this come out of now?'
"There's some electric arms in our bullpen with some absolutely plus secondary stuff," he added. "I think we're going to see the best out of these guys."
Even if he's right, time is not on their side. For now, Saturday looked a lot like a first round of tryouts to survive the first in-season roster cutdown (30 to 28 on Aug. 7).
"You've got to get them out there," manager David Ross said.
The electricity in some cases has not been the issue as much as location. Case in point: prospect Dillon Maples, who was the only one from Saturday's crew to deliver a 1-2-3 inning (in the ninth).
Power-arm left-hander Rex Brothers (eighth inning) was the only other one with a scoreless inning.
The Cubs played from behind from the start of the reliever parade, so the team's closer and primary setup men in the 11-man, early-season pen weren't in play.
But it's hard to overestimate the importance, if not challenge, of learning quickly in a 60-game season who's reliable enough to trust even in the middle innings.
"I don't think it's a challenge," Ross said. "You've got to get guys in there and see how they look. That's part of it. You've got to get them out there and see what you've got."
To that end, right-hander Duane Underwood Jr. looked sharp but for one elevated 94-mph fastball that Justin Smoak banged off the right-field foul pole.
Lefty Brad Wieck gave up a two-out walk, followed by a two-run homer to Christian Yelich in the sixth as his lagging velocity continues to be "monitored" by the team.
And righty James Norwood pumped 98-mph fastballs in the seventh inning, but three consecutive hits, including the third off a centered splitter, cost two more runs.
"I've said these guys have got to continue to grow. They're still learning, still pitching, still trying to execute pitches," Ross said of a group that admittedly doesn't have the luxury of doing any of that in such a short season.
"Growth is going to be a strong point for them," he said. "And there's no way to find out until we get them in there."
Kyle Schwarber on Cubs' unheralded relievers: 'Don't sleep on this bullpen' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago