You always got the sense that the Chicago Cubs were very reluctant to release Carlos Silva, whom they owe a total of $8 million over the next year ($6 million in salary and a $2 million buyout). And Silva, for his part, seemed reluctant to accept a bullpen role. Silva himself guaranteed that he would be in the rotation. So, expecting Silva in the rotation to start the year is hardly a limb-dwelling exercise.

But then again, until yesterday, Silva had done everything he possibly could to make you feel lonely on that limb (except when he crawled out there with you, causing an audible cracking sound). He was, in a word, terrible. No batter found his pitches unpalatable, and his ERA floated above 15.00 for most of the Spring.

Now that he’s had one good outing, coupled with Andrew Cashner not yet having an outing that looked like a guy who could go out and give you six or seven innings, the smart money (about $8 million worth) is once again on Silva being in the rotation.

At least Silva is saying all the right things now.

“They’ve been great to me,” Silva said of the Cubs. “Those guys never gave up on me. To be honest, the last game I pitched, I was like, ‘Man, this is going to be so difficult to make this rotation.’ … It’s the numbers that talk in this game. Now, I felt like they gave me another chance. I didn’t try to do too much. I’m so happy right now.”

In that previous outing March 18, Silva gave up five earned runs on 11 hits over three innings against the Reds.

“I don’t know what the decision is going to be,” Silva said. “Hopefully, they make the right decision. For them to make the right decision, they don’t need to pick me. You can have a good, bad Spring Training, but if you have a good season, they made the right choice.”

What if the Cubs ask him to switch to relief rather than start?

“As long as I wear a big league jersey, I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m looking forward to winning. Last year, I said, ‘Man, I don’t care where they put me, in the starting rotation or the bullpen. I just want to be a better pitcher.’

“As long as I wear a big league jersey, especially the Cubs jersey, it’s a blessing,” he said.

Mike Quade has suggested he’d like to set the rotation as of Saturday, which means he’ll get another look at Cashner and Braden Looper, the only other remaining competitor for the fifth starter job.

But it also means that he won’t get another look at Silva before making his decision. I’m not saying that’s the wrong approach – at some point, the back-end guys need to know they’re in the rotation so they can stop battling each other, and start getting ready for the season (working on pitches, situational stuff, etc.). We’re running out of time for all of that.

Like it or not, Andrew Cashner can be put in the bullpen and stretched back out if necessary – he’s not going to be able to throw more than about 140 innings this year anyway. Braden Looper can be put in the pen or released without much harm. Silva can be released if he sucks for more than one start in April/May.

So would the Cubs really be making the wrong decision to let Silva open the season as the fifth starter? Not if he is indeed released if he sucks for more than one start in April/May. My not-so-secret desire to see him fail this Spring was more out of a fear that he be installed in the rotation without reservation, and would therefore be allowed to flounder for months. Because of the way his Spring has played out – massive struggles followed by one glimmer of hope – gives me some confidence that the Cubs would take my approach (i.e., keeping Silva on an incredibly short leash). That’s why my attitude toward Silva in the rotation has taken a bit of a 180.

Now watch Andrew Cashner go out and throw six innings of no-hit ball and I’ll change my mind again.

  • Adam

    I think throwing Cashner out into the rotation at this point just seems a bit rushed. As much as it pains me, I would send Silva out there as the #5 starter – like you say, with a very short leash. I may give him more than one outting to suck – but not much more. I am interested in seeing Casey Coleman get a few starts at AAA while Silva decides if he wants to throw batting practice at Wrigley. After seeing Coleman string together a few quality starts to end the 2010 year, I think he is a legitimate contender for that fifth spot in the rotation. Nothing fancy – but he would go out there and get guys out.

  • jeff

    This spot was Silva’s as soon as Quade was named manager. We all saw his managing style at the end of last year, screw the kids and their mistakes, he’ll take the veteran every time. Saying he’s not even going to watch Silva pitch again before making the decision is the writing on the wall. It means he has seen what he wants to see from Silva and has made his decision already, the rest is just a token gesture.
    I can almost guarantee that Hill will make the team over Castillo or Ramirez, Reed Johnson will be the 5th outfielder, Looper, and possibly Wellemeyer will be in the pen, and it would not shock me one bit if Quade found a way to fit Augie Ojeda on the roster. The team will be just barely good enough to stay in the race and Ricketts will see that as a success, and OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN!!!!

    • Keith

      Jeff – I have to completely disagree with you. I think you may be confusing Pinella with Quade. When Quade came aboard, he gave a lot of the young guys a chance and even instilled confidence in them. I actually believe he is an enormous part of why our young relievers grew more confident and successful towards the end of the year. Also, truly, we are not going to be a strongly competitive team again until at least next season due to the awful contracts we are carrying.

      • jeff

        No, I remember last September pretty well. Xavier Nady and Koyie Hill took the majority of the playing time in September, while Colvin(even before the staking), Wellington Castillo, and Darwin Barney sat on the bench not getting at bats, even though everyone and their mother knew Nady wasn’t going to be around this year. Marcus Mateo and Scott Maine were the only young pitchers to drastically improve under Quade, and Maine is in the minors again. It was clear that Quade was more concerned with winning a couple of extra meaningless games last year than building a team for the future. No getting Colvin time at first, or letting Castillo take some swings at big league pitching or finally seeing what Darwin Barney could do in extended time. I expect much of the same this year, and it’s a shame because I think the kids are going to be the only things worth watching come next September too, I just don’t know if Uncle Mikey is going to let them come out to play.

        • Hogan

          truth…sadly. I do still find myself rooting for Quade, but the veteran preference is disturbing. Then again he was trying to win a job, and I sometimes wonder who has the pull when determining roster and bulk playing time. Quade has already spoken about definite disagreements with Hendry and Bush.

          • http://SOI veryzer

            I agree with Jeff. And I’m not in love with Quade like so many others are.

            • bt

              I don’t agree with Jeff, because he was watching an alternate reality Cubs team last August and September. Last September, and before his injury, Quade sat Colvin a grand total of TWO games. He played in 14, and had multiple at bats in 12 of those. He played in EVERY game Quade managed in August. Yes, Barney didn’t play, but that was because they were giving time to an older player. Blake Dewitt. Who is a full total of 2 months older than Barney. And had just been traded for. It seems to be rather prudent to play Dewitt, and see what we have.

              In short, Colvin played all the time, Nady played because we have no first base prospects, Barney didn’t play because we have a guy the same age whom we had to audition, so Quade’s great crime against youth was playing Koyie Hill instead of another backup catcher.

              • jeff

                Starting and hitting 4 or 5 times a game isn’t the same as coming in as Alfonso Soriano’s late game replacement and getting an AB or two, which was Colvin’s role when Fukudome started. Xavier Nady was worthless and wasn’t coming back, Colvin could have been playing every day and getting experience at first base. He didn’t, now there is no experienced back up first baseman on the team again and Hendry went and spent 10 million on a .200 hitter. Micah Hoffpauer was still around, could have finally gotten a shot to play everyday and didn’t.
                Soto was hurt and not playing at the end of the year, the smart move would have been to play Wellington Castillo at least the same amount that a normal backup plays, instead Koyie Hill started every game but 2 after Soto went down.
                Barney plays at least three positions, and still didn’t get much playing time. There are quite a few players in the minors that could have used a look at the end of the year last year. Something most teams not in contention do. This was Quade’s crime, regardless of the rest, he played veterans to secure his future instead of giving guys that could help down the road a shot when winning games meant virtually nothing.

                • BT

                  Dude, your wrong on almost every count. I wouldn’t be so annoyed, but I specifically pointed out that he had multiple at bats in 12 of those 14 games so you wouldn’t argue he was a defensive replacement. He wasn’t. Also, Colvin didn’t play first because Colvin told Quade he didn’t WANT to play first. He hadn’t played it in some time, and wasn’t comfortable there. I suppose Quade coiuld have forced him to do it, but he was too busy starting him and playing the outfield.

                  I don’t know what the third position Barney can play is, but if you are suggesting he should have gotten more starts at shortstop at Castro’s expense, then I seriously don’t know what to say.

                  Hoffpauir is 30 years old, and hit .173 last year. If he is the answer at first, I don’t want to know the question.

                  So if your major beef with Quade is that he didn’t play Micah freaking Hoffpauir enough, or put enough effort into finding out how good our backup catcher could be, knock yourself out. He’s guilty as charged.

                  I don’t care if you hate Quade, but complaining that he didn’t play Colvin enough is insane.

                  • jeff

                    I like Quade and think he did a decent job last year. I just think his priorities weren’t inline with what the teams should have been. It wasn’t about Colvin playing first, it was about getting consistent at bats and keeping hot streaks going. I counted 9 times since Quade took over that Covin either didn’t play or only got 1 or 2 at bats as a pinch hitter/defensive replacement. There were also a couple of times he would have a good day at the plate (homerun or couple of hits) and then he was out of the lineup for a game or two. My point isn’t about one or two guys getting shafted, it was that Quade was in win now mode, which was why Xavier Nady led the team in at bats for Quade and Koyie HIll started at catcher to end the season. I’m not saying these specific instances are the reason for my criticism, but add to it. Koyie Hill was basically handed the backup catcher job for this season last September by not letting Castillo or Chirinos get some big league time. The Cubs are without a backup first basemen again this year because Xavier Nady played every game there at the end of last season instead of getting someone some time there. I heard that Colvin wasn’t big on trying first last year, but I’m sure if Quade asked him to fill in for a few games he would have and then he would be prepared to get some spot starts there instead of us having to deal with Blake DeWitt backing up Pena. You can say I’m completely wrong, or that I’m insane, an idiot, or say that I’m watching the Cubs in an alternate universe(oh yeah, you’ve done all those already) but I watched every game I could last season and there is no doubt in my mind that Quade could have done a lot more last year during a lost season to prepare the team for this year, where they still have a chance to win, mathematically anyway.

                    • http://SOI veryzer

                      I agree with jeff.

        • Ace

          That’s because Quade was trying to win a job… as I said then: it was a misalignment of organizational interests. And it was a shame. But I like Quade now.

  • Willis

    I was pulling for Cashner, but if this is the way it goes down it won’t last too long. One would like to think that yesterday was the Silva we will see but it isn’t. He is what he is. Cashner has the tools to be great. But he hasn’t shown enough this spring and in management’s mind, what’s the harm in adding another power arm to the bullpen right now? I don’t agree with it, but he has done nothing to show me he is ready for ML starting duties either.

    Neither of them have. It’ll eventually be Cashner. Just can’t wait to see what $8 million can buy these days.

  • Raymond Robert Koenig

    If the Cubs are planning to limit Cashner to 140 IP this season he wouldn’t be able to start 32 times any way. Let Silva or someone else start the season as the 5th starter then ease Cashner into the rotation or make room for him.