Although this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, it’s still worth confirming and putting down on paper here at the outset of Spring Training.
With a full rotation that currently projects as Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks, the Chicago Cubs will have as many as four other starting pitchers on the roster who will not have a spot in the rotation: Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Travis Wood, and Clayton Richard.
I call them “starting pitchers” because they are, in ways that many other relievers are not, long-standing starting pitchers in their professional careers, even at the big league level.
The four are also extremely valuable to the Cubs in one other major way, which is implied up there in the title: they can be stretched out as starters right now to cover the Cubs in case of injury in Spring Training.
It happens every year to, oh, say, 50% of the teams in baseball: a starting pitcher shows up not feeling quite right, or feels a tweak when he gets back up on the mound, and it delays the start of his season by a little while. When that happens, the team better hope it has a good back-up starting option ready to go when the whistle blows.
The Cubs have four such options.
To be sure, there’s an argument that Warren, and perhaps Cahill, will actually be competing for a job at the back of the rotation. And I won’t rule out that possibility, if someone like Kyle Hendricks just isn’t looking right, and someone like Adam Warren is looking like nails.
Indeed, my guess is that process starts to shake itself loose by the final two weeks of Spring Training games, particularly if there are any competitions going on in the extremely crowded bullpen race. If healthy, Cahill, Warren, and Wood feel like mortal locks for the pen, though Richard may have to compete against some of the other lefties in the pen to secure his spot.
But we’ll get there when we get there. For now, it sounds like Richard, like the other three super utility pitchers, will be stretched out as starters.