For the purposes of these Spring Training discussions, we remain under the impression that the first three spots in the rotation – barring injury or trade – are locked up by Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Maholm. For the back two spots, Chris Volstad, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, Travis Wood, and Rodrigo Lopez remain under consideration (with a couple others technically, but not really, in the race).
While Spring Training performance is not going to be the sole deciding factor in the rotation decision, it is certainly a part of the competition. On the Spring so far, the numbers shake out thusly:
Volstad – 0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K
Samardzija – 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K
Wells – 0.00 ERA, 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 K
Wood – 20.25 ERA, 2.2 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 2 K
Lopez – 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K
I’m assuming Wood’s numbers jump out at you, and, if they, alone, weren’t enough to suggest Wood is bound for AAA to start the year, his remaining option year will probably do the trick. Things can change, but the odds Wood cracks the rotation to start the year are exceedingly slim.
Wood is trying to remain positive and optimistic, though.
“It’s typical to say it’s early and you’re working out all of the kinks but it’s time to go,” Wood said. “I still have three or four starts left and I have to show what I can do then …. I feel good, the arm feels great, I feel healthy. It’s just time to really get after it.”
As for the other guys, there isn’t much in the way of the numbers to distinguish them. All four are pitching well on the Spring, so, were we deciding today, other factors would have to be considered – with the primary one being “who is the most likely to succeed when the season rolls around?”
Some of the reasons the Cubs might decide Guy A is more likely to succeed in the season than Guy B will be obscured to us. It’s easy for us to say Guy A is throwing better than Guy B, but we don’t know if Guy B is working on a new grip that, when mastered, will transform him into a beast in the Cubs’ eyes. Other reasons – past success in the bigs, overall impression of stuff and stamina, upside, age, future role – are things about which we can at least speak intelligently.
One thing we do know is that “need” is purportedly not going to factor into the decision. By “need,” I refer specifically to Jeff Samardzija being a solid candidate for the late innings in the bullpen – might the Cubs prefer to keep Jeff there, and let one of the other starters take a rotation spot, even if Jeff is just ever-so-slightly better?
“Need isn’t going to dictate the decision whether [Samardzija] makes the starting rotation or not,” Sveum said. “Anybody’s need is always starting pitching. If he proves he can handle that, it’s not going to be a need because of what our bullpen needs.”
So, it is then fair to assume that it’s a relatively even four-horse race for the final two spots, with the possible exception of Lopez, who doesn’t have a “future” with the Cubs. Then again, one a one-year deal, you can imagine why the Cubs’ front office wouldn’t mind seeing Lopez somehow put together a great first half in the rotation – he becomes great trade bait at that point. The chances that would happen, of course, are quite slim. But, given that the Cubs could easily stash two of Wells, Samardzija, and Volstad in the bullpen or AAA, it can’t totally be ruled out.
It will be an interesting two weeks.