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. cubs.com.
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.