carlos villanueva the stacheThe Chicago Cubs have selected swing man Carlos Villanueva to start in the rotation as Jake Arrieta works his way back from some pre-season shoulder stiffness. That means Villanueva will make at least two starts for the Cubs in April, and possibly three or four. After that, when Arrieta returns, Villanueva will likely head to the bullpen, assuming the rest of the rotation is healthy.

The selection of Villanueva means that Chris Rusin will head to AAA Iowa to start the year, and continue in the rotation there. He’ll likely have a shot at some point this year to make some more starts in Chicago, though, even as a fill-in, he could be competing with Kyle Hendricks and Neil Ramirez in that role, and possibly also Eric Jokisch.

Barring a last minute waiver claim or change of heart about a prior cut, then, the bullpen to start the year shakes out as:

Jose Veras
Pedro Strop
James Russell
Wesley Wright
Justin Grimm
Alberto Cabrera
Hector Rondon

One of those guys will get bounced when Jake Arrieta is ready to go, pushing Villanueva into the pen. But you’d rather defer the decision, all things equal, because the more data you can get the better.

  • Wahl71

    Hopefully whatever small number of leads we carry into the late innings should be preserved by this lot, 3 days everybody!!!

  • ssckelley

    This makes sense, Rusin has options anyway.

    Btw, Jennifer Aniston is still hot. I Just wanted to say that.

    • peoriadude

      Yes it does.

      True, so is Jennifer Connelly.

    • cavemancubbie

      Would love to Jennifer Anniston in a BN thong!

      • ssckelley

        She looked good on that Aveeno commercial.

        • Medicos

          Check out Amy Adams or Leslie Mann. Both better looking than Aniston or Connelly.

          • ssckelley

            Not bad but I still pick Aniston, still hot at 45 years old.

          • johnnyp

            Leslie Mann is not hotter than Connelly or Aniston. Salma Hiyak on the other hand….

            • willis

              Leslie Mann is super hot. I don’t know why, but she is. Pure hot.

              • Medicos

                Willis: You are right Leslie Mann is super hot. She’s the kind of woman who is extremely approachable. I’ll bet she’s fun both in and out of the bedroom!!!! Judd Aptow, her husband, is one lucky individual.

                • blublud

                  Leslie Mann is cute but has no body.

                  Jennifer Connelly is not cute and has no body.

                  Jennifer Aniston is a A all around though she is starting to look old in the face.

                  Two women who look good for their age is Christie Brinkley and Stacy Dash.

            • ssckelley

              I did not realize Salma Hayek was older than Aniston. Damn, she is 47 years old!?!

              • blublud

                She’s 47 and still fine as she wants to be.

                • ssckelley

                  Wow I agree, I agree with Blub!

  • bobdawg78

    I’m actually kind of scared of how our bullpen has shaped out going into the season. Wright and Cabrera looked bad, (at least to me) this ST. Rondon, Grimm, and even Strop are guys that we truly can’t count on as being steady in the pen due to past experiences, so all that truly leaves is Veras and Russell as guys who can potentially be truly counted on, and Russells’ over use the past few years means we might potentially lose him at some point this year due to injury.

    I hope our SP goes deep into games, because I don’t want to count on this pen too much early in the season, and hope they can build up some confidence and success prior to us really needing to start counting on them to be a staple in this teams future success. I know we have better guys coming up down the road potentially in Viszcaino and others, but to start the 2014 season, I think our pen is not as big of a strength, as some people are hoping or thinking it is.

    I hope I’m wrong, and hopefully I’m eating crow on this in a month or two, but I just have a feeling, 2 or 3 of these guys are going to flame out this year in a very bad way.

  • geo

    You feel more comfortable with Russell? You feel more comfortable with Russell than strop,& rondon against righties? Russell against righthanded mlb hitters is like a jugs machine set on 50 mph for us.Russell is 2014 version of Shawn camp, & has been lucky so far with his 89 mph fastball but my guess is he will get hammerd against righties & average or slightly above against lefties.

  • Kyle

    It should be a better pen than last year, and it has the potential to be good, but it definitely has the potential to be pretty bad too.

    There’s basically no part of this team that doesn’t look very capable of being bad.

    • Brett

      I can see disaster lurking around every corner.

      I can also see so much surprise upside possibility.

      But mostly disaster.

      • Adventurecizin Justin

        So, a half-empty kind of guy? Just teezin’!

      • brains

        i think most careful people anticipate the worst and then have managed expectations about the best. brains has pessimistic expectations about anything.

    • Adventurecizin Justin

      At least there’s more promise emerging. I think we’ve seen the end of desperate dumpster diving for the major league roster. 2014…lotsa potential & hopefully lotsa progress!!

  • Fastball

    I wasn’t impressed with Wright at all this ST. Vera’s was never sharp in any games I saw. The ones who looked good were Jokisch and Ramirez. I think Strop will be okay. Never been a fan of Russell’s so he isn’t someone I would rely on much. By mid may this BP could have an entirely different look to it. I am crossing my fingers and toes hoping they show up. I do think Grimm will be a nice surprise. Hope they have in middle relief until he gets locked in. Rondon and Cabrera are the ones I am concerned about not even showing up. I just hope the own their roles and they set a performance standard early. BP pitching is infectious in both directions.

  • Blackhawks1963

    The pitching is a worry for me. Veres, Strop, Wright and Cabrera have not looked good this spring. Hammel does nothing for me. Jackson is always going to raise questions.

    I have a feeling we will see the Iowa shuttle very active.

    • brains

      i think the whole roster is of considerable worry – by design of the middle management – and think that even the 70 win projects are wildly optimistic. i think there will be more salary dumping, and high draft pick plans this next offseason. after the salary dumps there wont be reason, according to them, to sign any big free agents because the team will be too far off.

      • Voice of Reason

        Please give two examples of players on the 2014 cubs that, if traded, would be considered a “salary dump”.

        • brains

          shark and castro, the two most likely candidates, depending on how our minor leaguers go (with castro). even if the scale is lower, they’ll still be the highest paid players and out the door with replacement of someone making less than 500g a year.

          • gocatsgo2003

            Castro doesn’t even make $10 million until 2018 and Shark has another year of team control. Avoiding paying a bigger check down the road maybe, but definitely not salary dumps.

          • Voice of Reason


            You don’t even know what a salary dump is.

            • brains

              you prepped that response for about 45 minutes, so well done

              • Jason P

                By now, the only people that don’t ignore your endless stream of crap are the people that don’t know better. You’ve proven aplenty that you aren’t a reasonable being.

                • mjhurdle


                • brains

                  you guys are pretty good at driving away Brett’s potential new commentators with that kind of harsh rhetoric, but i like it. i like you guys, because you replace common sense with loyalty of affiliation at any cost, are willing to go to any length to defend your position. it’s fandom at its purist.

                  • Jason P
                  • Voice of Reason


                    You don’t know what a salary dump is. How can you be a.commentator on a baseball website? Lol

                    Let’s try something easier;

                    What three colors make up the United States flag?

                    • brains

                      well, either way you’re giving an excellent performance of what a “dump” looks like. i think i’m beginning to understand now…

                    • Voice of Reason

                      …. and we understand you.

              • Voice of Reason

                I could have waited three days, responded immediately or not have responded at all.

                What you said showed you haven’t a clue of what a salary dump is.

      • Blackhawks1963

        That’s ridiculous. The building strategy under Theo is looking hugely impressive. Patience is in order as it was always going to be the case when he took this job. Free agency is a fools paradise and was / is never going to be the magic answer. Theo is building this for the long haul to put this franchise on a legitimate solid footing like they have it in Boston, St Louis, Washington, Oakland. Free agents will eventually be part of the strategy, but only when the foundation is real and we need to add a piece or two to augment a solid base.

        • Jason B


        • Voice of Reason


          You get it!

  • Cubsleeram

    2012 Opening Day Bullpen: Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, James Russell, Shawn Camp, Lendy Castillo, and Rafael Dolis

    2014 Opening Day Bullpen: Jose Veras, Pedro Strop, James Russell, Wesley Wright, Justin Grimm, Alberto Cabrera, and Hector Rondon.

    For this very improvement, I think the Cubs may end closer to .500 than many think.

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