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Cubs bullpen blows up in loss to Indians

Cubs pitcher Justin Grimm (17.18) has an enlarged ERA this spring. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs lost 10-5 to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night as their bullpen blew up after starter Pierce Johnson threw his best four innings of the spring:

Justin Grimm/Neil Ramirez: Neither reliever made it out of their scheduled inning as combined they gave up five hits, three walks and nine runs. Ramirez didn't record an out before being pulled while Grimm walked the first two batters he faced before Michael Brantley eventually took him deep.

A few of the Cubs top relievers have enlarged ERAs this spring, including Grimm, who saw his rise to 17.18. Ramirez is trying to make the team and is out of minor league options so Saturday's performance won't help his cause as his ERA sits at 15.75. Remember the numbers have been achieved in very limited innings, though, and there's still time to feel confident about the bullpen. The urgency for Ramirez is greater than for Grimm, so it remains to be seen how Saturday affects his status. It's also worth noting that most of the top relievers got started late as to lighten the workload heading into April, so it's possible they're playing catch-up to opposing hitters.

Russell/Bryant: Addison Russell and Kris Bryant had two hits apiece and were the bright spots on offense for the Cubs' regulars who had six hits off Indians starter Corey Kluber in the first three innings of the game. He wasn't fooling them, though he settled down only giving up one run over five innings.

Tommy La Stella: Sometimes dismissed by fans, the Cubs best bat off the bench is closer to returning to action after being slowed by a calf injury. He's played in two controlled minor league affairs where he batted and didn't run the bases nor play the field.

"My goodness,” said Jake Arrieta who started the game. "It was good to see him out there ... (He was) 3-4 with four quality at-bats. He's ready to get back out there. I hope he's close because he's a good player.”

La Stella gets that type of praise from teammates and coaches alike. Early in camp manager Joe Maddon said La Stella can "get up at 3 a.m.” and hit anyone. If he's healthy he has a roster spot on the big league team.

"The guy has been sitting around for a week and gets out there and hits line drives all over the place,” Maddon said Saturday afternoon. "We just have to get him well and keep him on the field more consistently. He's a valuable player. A very valuable player.”

La Stella missed most of last season with an oblique injury and now has missed time after straining his calf.

"It's frustrating but it's part of the game,” he stated. "I'm back and confident in myself.

"Hopefully get on the bags the next few days.”

Matt Szczur (oblique) also participated in the minor league game and thinks he can play in a Cactus League contest by Tuesday.

RBI Guests: On Saturday the Cubs hosted kids from their RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) flying them in from Chicago and putting them up for the weekend while allowing them to hang and workout with the players.

"It's our responsibility to make sure it's memorable,” Maddon said. "It's awesome. Those are the kinds of programs I love.”

Their time warming up and working out with the team was documented by ESPN for a future segment on SportsCenter.

Up Next: Jon Lester starts on Sunday against the Kansas City Royals before the Cubs get the day off on Monday. John Lackey will pitch in a minor league game taking his turn in the rotation while the rest of the team gets their first day away from the park this spring.