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cactusThe Cubs score three in the top of the 9th to take the lead, only to give up four in the bottom of the 9th and lose. Once again I say: good thing it’s just Spring Training.

  • Facing a lineup of mostly Rockies regulars, Carlos Villanueva made a pretty emphatic case for that fifth starter’s job. Yes, he gave up three earned runs in four innings, but all three came on a Carlos Gonzalez bomb, which you kind of just tip your hat to. Otherwise? Villanueva struck out eight(!) Rockies while walking just one, and giving up just three hits. For me, Villanueva is the fifth starter: he can easily swing back into the pen when Jake Arrieta is ready, he can show some value as a starter, his presence in the rotation to start the year buys the Cubs some time with their bullpen picture and allows them to carry someone like Alberto Cabrera for the time being (rather than having to pass him through waivers). Also: I think Villanueva is probably the best option right now to actually do the best job. That’s no knock on Chris Rusin, by the way. I just really like the idea of Villanueva’s stuff in the cold month of April. It plays very, very well.
  • Jose Veras, Pedro Strop, Wesley Wright, and Hector Rondon each got in an inning of work, with the first two giving up an earned run apiece. I still feel like Rondon probably has a spot in the bullpen – his stuff simply looks too good. If you force me to guess on the bullpen right now, it’s those four guys, James Russell, Blake Parker, and Alberto Cabrera (with Villanueva in the rotation, James McDonald on the DL, and Chris Rusin and Justin Grimm, Chang-Yong Lim, and Brian Schlitter at Iowa).
  • Javier Baez hit a monster bomb to center field, but you’ve already watched that, right?
  • George Kottaras took two walks in his three plate appearances, and I look forward to his .150/.350/.350 line this year. That’s not really sarcasm. What a reviled player he would have been just 15 years ago.
  • Mike Olt had a late PH appearance and drew a walk.
  • That massively blown save in the 9th, by the way, came off of Paulo Espino, one of the Cubs’ interesting minor league signings this year. He’s a guy who’s had lots of minor league success and simply has never had a shot in the big leagues. For the Cubs, he’s intriguing depth, but that’s all.
  • nate1m

    Any word on the wrist?

    • nate1m

      I’ve seen nothing new this morning which I take as a good sign

      • willis

        He’s available off the bench today so I think he’s fine. Scary collision though.

        • C. Steadman

          I think the fact that he stayed in the game after, a spring game even so they’d be extra cautious and more inclined to pull him, shows he’s fine.

  • JB88

    Yes, Villanueva pitched a good game, but he absolutely hung a curve on a 3-2 pitch to CarGo that CarGo murdered. It was a really bad pitch that most ML’ers would have destroyed.

    • willis

      It wasn’t the best pitch. And he did seem to be very conservative with he and Tulo…which I’m fine with really. But other than that he seemed to be throwing harder and attacking more than I remember last year. He had some very good stuff last night.

    • Funn Dave

      Idk, everyone I’ve talked to as well as the commentators thought it was a pretty good pitch.

  • Spoda17

    I really like Villanueva… I watched the game, and I think he pitched really well. The Home run he gave up to Cargo was low and inner half… good pitch, Cargo is just good…

    • Edwin

      Villanueva is an interesting guy to watch pitch. He doesn’t really have good stuff, so he basically relies on throwing junk over half the time. There’s just something entertaining about watching a guy like that get big league hitters out.

  • http://BN Sacko

    No Sh– 8 K’s that is so surprising and great that he has looked like the fill 5th SP . Did he have 8 k’s at all last year? [in 1 game by the way.]

  • cub4life

    Brett,

    With what you were suggesting (Villenueva is rotation and the pen you have) who would be the odd man out when Arrietta comes back?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Depends on how guys are looking, who’s healthy, etc. That’s the nice thing about delaying the decision. More information.

      • cub4life

        that is true. I was looking at if we skip a month in the future and everyone is playing to expectations and there are no injuries (exactly what we have right now for example), a record of 6-11 and you are the management of the Cubs (looking at all the factors, contracts, time, options ect) what would you do?

  • ssckelley

    It might be time for Paolo Espino to figure out another career. He is 27 years old and continues to struggle at the AAA level.

  • Jon

    Tough break for the Cuban Missle last night huh? Something like that could derail his entire season.

    • Isaac

      Awful, very rough for him.

    • waittilthisyear

      wow just watched it now. thats the scariest thing in baseball. looked absolutely gruesome. hope he comes back strong, one-of-a-kind player

  • MightyBear

    Brett, I disagree. If Arrieta is going to be ready after a couple of starts, I start Rusin and leave Villanueva in the pen. Part of the Cubs issues last year was the pen started out terrible. Plus early in the season starters are usually limited. Villanueva can get into his routine as a reliever, shore up the pen and be ready to go 3 innings when Shark pitches 5 innings of shutout ball but uses 90 pitches to get there. A couple of starts in Chicago and back to Iowa isn’t going to really affect Rusin. Now if he gets bombed and they have to go to the pen, that could screw things up but pitchers usually have an advantage in April anyway.

    • C. Steadman

      I think the benefit of starting Villanueva allows the Cubs to carry both Parker and Rondon. To me, those two are in direct competition b/c the rest of the bullpen seems figured out barring a trade(Veras, Strop, Cabrera, Wright, Russell, Villanueva once Arrieta returns). This allows the Cubs to get some regular season appearances to base a decision on and send the loser down once Arrieta is back.

      • C. Steadman

        Also, Cabrera was a starter last year so he can be the long reliever early on instead of Villanueva.

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