Two relatively big pieces of information, buried in Carrie Muskat’s blog, from Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella:
The Cubs do need five starters when they open the season. Sometimes with off days, a team can get by with four. The way it’s projected, the Cubs’ fifth starter would make four starts in April.
“I asked [Larry Rothchild] if we could get by with 11 pitchers in the month of April,” Piniella said. “I haven’t heard a positive response on that one yet.” Muskat Ramblings.
We’ve all been assuming – and that includes General Manager Jim Hendry, who stated as much last week – that the Cubs could go with four starting pitchers for the first few weeks of the season, thus mitigating the loss of Ted Lilly somewhat. But if the Cubs actually have to go with five starters from day one, let’s hope two of the competing guys really step up. Upon review of the schedule, I see one spot where the Cubs could skip the fifth starter, but that’s it. Usually the early-season schedule is more kind.
To the latter point, Lou is clearly concerned about the Cubs’ bench. If the Cubs – like most teams – can go with just 11 pitchers, they will be able to carry an extra player on the bench, which would likely be a defensive-minded infielder (Andres Blanco?) or an extra outfielder since Xavier Nady can’t yet play out there (Tyler Colvin?).
It would be nice to have the extra player on the bench. Thing is, with the back-end of the rotation in shambles in April, I have hard time believing the Cubs aren’t going to want to carry as many relievers as possible.