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Whenever the Chicago Cubs bring a reclamation project on board, there are certain things that can inspire optimism. The guy was playing through pain or with a lingering injury the last couple of years. The guy was having family issues that distracted him. The guy had signed a huge contract and became complacent.

Any of these things would allow Cubs fans to have just the tiniest shade of optimism about new arrival, Carlos Silva. Silva, acquired in a crap-in, crap-out swap with the Mariners for Milton Bradley, was absolutely horrible in his two seasons in Seattle. Sure, he was hurt last year, but he was awful in 2008, long before the injury. But, he had signed a huge contract before 2008, so maybe, for those first two years, he had let himself go a little bit. Maybe he let himself get comfortable – and we can cling to the hope that he will rededicate himself now. Yes. Yes. I’m starting to feel the optimism.

The only thing that could bring me down would be to learn that Silva was really committed to being the best he could be when he arrived in Seattle.

Silva now is battling not only for a spot in the Cubs rotation but also to redeem himself.

“To be honest, for me, my last two years have been very disappointing, and not for Seattle, but for myself,” Silva said Friday. “It was disappointing because I worked very hard for my numbers and to have a good season.

“But here [with the Cubs], I’m coming with a clear mind. This is my first year in the big leagues, know what I mean? I don’t care how long I’ve been in the big leagues.”

Actually, his first season was 2002. Silva made his Major League debut on April 1 that year for Philadelphia. But he’s decided to make a fresh start. Forget the two seasons with the Phillies or the four with the Twins, although his success in Minnesota helped him get a four-year, $48 million contract with the Mariners in December 2007.

Now, Silva joins Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall as candidates for a spot in the Cubs rotation.

“We’ll just let ‘em pitch,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “We have a lot of split-squad games early, so we’ll need some innings. There’s some jobs to be won here right now, not only in the rotation but in our bullpen.”

That’s fine with Silva.

“I like to have competition, I like to be fighting for my job, I like to own my spot,” Silva said. “When I signed the contract with Seattle, my mind changed so much. I wanted to maybe impress everybody. I wanted to show people why they paid me so much money — I don’t know why, but I think that’s how I felt. cubs.com.

Son of a crap. If that’s what Silva pitches like when he’s really trying, when he’s committed to being all he can be, what’s he going to look like for the Cubs? Throw in the fact that he’s reportedly out of shape, and it’s probably absurd for us to hope for anything more than Silva taking up space in the bullpen.

Then again, maybe he was saying that, after signing that big contract, he put too much pressure on himself to perform. Maybe he got out of his usual routine, and tried too hard. Maybe now that the expectations could not possibly be any lower, Silva will be able to get back to what made him a (moderately) successful pitcher in the first place – throwing strikes, using his defense, keeping the ball down. Maybe he really can pull it together enough to be a 4.30ish ERA, fifth starting innings eater for the Cubs. Maybe.

Aw crap. Look at me getting optimistic again.

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  • KevinG

    Well I guess we are down to 3 for the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation.

  • KevinG

    Optism you really are a true Cubs fan.

  • Gargantua!

    Yeah…because it would be better if he had just been tanking his career on purpose.

    • Ace

      Better in terms of hopes for successful performance this year? Yup.

      • Gargantua!

        Right…because that’s the mindset you want from a ballplayer.

        • Ace

          Clearly you’d rather have a guy who simply is-not-good-at-baseball.

          • Gargantua!

            I want both…but, I’d rather have a guy who gave 100%, and might have a correctable mechanical issue, than one who lost his drive after he signed the big contract.

            You don’t?

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