There remains an active competition in camp for the fifth starter spot, and at least two bullpen spots. I say only the fifth starter spot because, by most accounts (including my own for months), Randy Wells has locked down the fourth starter spot.
But the fifth spot and the complete makeup of the bullpen remain very much in flux.
With another solid start on Tuesday, Randy Wells should lay claim to the fourth spot in the rotation. That leaves Andrew Cashner, James Russell, Braden Looper and Carlos Silva as the only realistic contenders for the fifth spot.
Casey Coleman and Todd Wellemeyer are likely fighting for a bullpen spot.
If Cashner doesn’t make it in the rotation, he’ll return to the bullpen. In the case of Russell, he may end up in the rotation at Triple-A, along with Coleman.
This should not be looked at as a punishment for Russell, but rather an opportunity to grow and be ready for a major league call-up. The team does not have any other viable left-hander to start. So Russell could be called up quickly if someone gets hurt or doesn’t produce.
Carlos Silva will most likely be in the bullpen if he’s not part of the rotation. There’s no scenario at this point where he’ll be cut. A number of teams are watching him, as well as Looper and Wellemeyer, in hopes of adding a veteran to their staff if one is cut by the Cubs. ESPN Chicago.
That all sounds about right, with a few thoughts:
(1) I’d probably put James Russell out of the rotation competition at this point. He’s shown absolutely nothing this Spring, and nothing in his background to this point suggests he’s the Cubs’ fifth best option. He throws left-handed – that’s it. He’ll probably head to AAA if the Cubs want him to continue starting. It’s a shame, because I would have liked to see how he developed in year two as a reliever.
(2) No scenario at this point that Silva will be cut? I suppose I’m not surprised, but that doesn’t mean it’s the correct decision. If Silva is not one of the 12 best pitchers on the Cubs – and right now, I’m just not sure that he is – he should be cut. Hopefully he takes to the bullpen well, as he did earlier in his career. It would be nice to get some value out of him this year, but the Cubs shouldn’t feel tied to him simply because they owe him some cash. Sunk costs, and all that.
(3) Looper has said repeatedly that it’s Cubs or bust for him, and if he’s willing to accept a bullpen spot, then I think he’s got as much of a shot of landing there as Wellemeyer.