Cubs

Cubs will take another look at Cashner vs. Silva

Cubs will take another look at Cashner vs. Silva

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted 5:31 p.m. Updated 6:58 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Andrew Cashner hasnt done anything to make the Cubs second-guess their decision to commit to him as a starter. But he also hasnt done enough to claim the fifth spot in the rotation just yet.

Cashner has firm grip on rotation spot

At least thats what it sounded like after manager Mike Quade emerged from Tuesdays strategy session at HoHoKam Park. No hard news came out of the meeting between Quade, his coaches, general manager Jim Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush.

WATCH: Riggins on the rotation race

But the Cubs will take another look at Carlos Silva, who has seemed lost this spring but will start again Wednesday against the Oakland As in Mesa. Publicly, Silva stays in the picture.

I never count anybody out, Quade said. Im anxious to see him pitch tomorrow. There are still some tough decisions. Nothings definitive. I have a lot to sleep on andor not sleep on tonight regarding the pitching.

Expect another round of cuts on Thursday, if not sooner, and firm rotation answers should come by the weekend. Randy Wells looks like a lock as the No. 4 starter, but no one else has really pushed Cashner.

Silva hasnt had a good feel for his pitches and has struggled with his confidence. Hes given up 26 runs 20 earned on 29 hits in 11 13 innings.

Todd Wellemeyer has been slowed by a hip injury that will make it difficult for him to break camp with the club. Braden Loopers ERA shot up to 10.97 after allowing eight runs in two innings his last time out.

No one has been good from start to finish, Quade said. No one battling for that spot has been consistent that I will say. And that will worry me when the fifth spot in the rotation has not been consistent in May or June.

Quade will meet with Hendry and Bush again on Wednesday morning, though the manager pointed out that theyre already in agreement on most of the decisions. One primary factor is how Quades going to run a game.

Quade said the idea of carrying four left-handers relievers Sean Marshall, John Grabow, James Russell and Scott Maine isnt off the table yet. But any bullpen plan is premised upon how many innings the Cubs can expect out of their starters, and how they might incorporate a long man.

So far Cashner hasnt exceeded four innings. He threw almost 60 pitches before Mondays start was washed away by rain. Given his age and pedigree, the 24-year-old first-round pick is still the one with the most upside potential.

Look, the kids a work in progress, Quade said. It would be great for him to get through five innings. I would like to see him make 80 or 85 pitches.

Silvas situation is complicated by the 13.5 million hes guaranteed through this seasons salary and a 2012 buyout. Hell get another shot to make an impression.

None of these decisions (are) easy, Quade said. Well take everything into account and try to make the best decision that we can. Sometimes guys make it easier for you, and sometimes they dont.

Etc.

Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster stretched out to six innings and allowed one run on six hits in Tuesdays 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. My body feels good and my pitches feel good, said Dempster, who lowered his spring ERA to 1.88. John Grabow submitted his third consecutive scoreless inning out of the bullpen. Jeff Samardzija (6.23 ERA) gave up the winning run in the 10th inning. Aramis Ramirez continues to feel sick and monitor a high fever, but the third baseman took batting practice and hopes to play Wednesday. Carlos Zambrano will pitch Wednesday in a minor-league game.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Yu Darvish finally has his first win at Wrigley

yu_darvish_first_wrigley_w_slide_photo.jpg
USA TODAY

Yu Darvish finally has his first win at Wrigley

Yu Darvish blew a 98 mph fastball by Yasiel Puig, pumped his fist emphatically twice and let out a primal yell as he walked off the mound while 37,260 fans at Wrigley Field backed him up with maybe the loudest "YUUUU!!!" chant of the season.

It was the final pitch he threw on the afternoon as he completely dismantled the Reds lineup in a 4-2 Cubs victory.

Since the All-Star Break, Darvish leads Major League Baseball in ERA — he hasn't allowed a run in 12 innings while striking out 15 and giving up only 4 hits and a walk. 

Oh yeah, and he finally picked up his first Wrigley Field win in a Cubs uniform...in his 28th start.

In both outings to start the second half, he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and they're also the only two scoreless starts he has as a member of the Cubs (he gave up 0 earned run April 27 last year against the Brewers, but was charged with an unearned run).

The Cubs are now 5-1 since the All-Star Break and will carry a 2.5-game lead in the division into action Friday when the San Diego Padres come into town.

Cole Hamels, Alec Mills and the Cubs' short-term rotation picture

cole_hamels_cubs_short-term_rotation_picture_slide_photo.jpg
USA TODAY

Cole Hamels, Alec Mills and the Cubs' short-term rotation picture

Just a few weeks after utilizing a six-man rotaiton, the Cubs are considering dropping back to a four-man starting staff for a bit.

Cole Hamels threw a bullpen Wednesday morning at Wrigley Field and reportedly felt great, but he's still at least a week or so away from returning to the Cubs rotation.

Couple that with the four days off for the All-Star Break last week and regular off-days coming up (three more still in July), the Cubs don't have an actual *need* for a fifth starter more than once between now and Aug. 3, as their four mainstays will be able to go on regular rest.

"We're gonna discuss that internally — things we want to do," pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "We have the ability to go with a four-man [rotation] for an extended period of time with those off-days."

Hottovy acknowledged a four-man rotation is the Cubs' preference rather than keep Alec Mills in the rotation long-term, but there are many factors to consider.

"Our guys are feeling good, so we don't want to push the envelope with all these off-days and [tell the pitchers], 'you're still gonna be on a five-day rotation,'" Hottovy said. "So we gotta all talk and communicate about how guys are feeling and make that decision."

The Cubs have been cautious with their pitchers coming out of the break, too, given they've all been thrown off their normal rhythms and routines. It's also worth noting that Kyle Hendricks is still working his way back up to full strength after a shoulder injury cost him much of June.

When the Cubs opted to go with a six-man rotation last month, the whole idea was to rest these guys and make sure they're feeling fresh for the second half and down the stretch. The team had a pretty brutal stretch — 52 games in 54 days — before the All-Star Break.

But if everything continues to progress with Hamels and his oblique injury, the Cubs may not need a four-man rotation for long, even if they opt to go that route. 

After Wednesday's bullpen, the Cubs are going to give Hamels a couple days to recover and will plan another bullpen for this weekend (likely Saturday). Just like with Hendricks' recovery, the first bullpen is more for a gauge to see where the guy is at physically and then the second one will be more of a normal routine and getting back into rhythm mechanically, etc.

Following that weekend bullpen, the Cubs don't know yet whether they're going to have Hamels throw a simulated game or go on a rehab assignment as the next step. They'll evaluate all that this weekend and thanks to the regular time off coming up, they know they don't have to push it.

"If he feels good, we also don't want to slow-play Cole Hamels," Hottovy said. "He's a guy we want in the rotation."

The Cubs are off Thursday but then play six straight games and they will need a fifth starter for that stretch (next Tuesday in San Francisco).

As of right now, it sure looks like that guy could be Mills, who rebounded nicely after a rough first inning during Tuesday night's victory. 

Mills — a 27-year-old right-hander — has only pitched 11 career games in the big leagues, but he's been a nice depth option for the Cubs the last couple years. Including Tuesday night, he has a 4.13 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 24 big-league innings for the Cubs the last two seasons.

"I have a lot of confidence [in him]," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's definitely a big-league caliber pitcher. I don't think he's a 4-A guy; I think he's more than that. He just needs opportunity."

Both Maddon and Hottovy mentioned Mills' last start with the Cubs last August when he gave up a first-inning grand slam to the Mets before settling in to throw 4+ innings of solid ball from there.

Tuesday night, Mills got two quick outs (thanks in large part to Albert Almora Jr.'s defense) and then served up a solo homer to Eugenio Suarez, who absolutely kills the Cubs. From there, it was back-to-back hit batters and then a groundball basehit that went right to where third baseman Kris Bryant would've been standing had he not broke for the bag to cover on a steal attempt.

Mills was inches away from getting out of the first inning with only 1 run allowed, but he also only eventually escaped the jam when Almora threw a runner out at home plate on a double off the wall — or else there could've been even more damage.

After that, Mills held the Reds scoreless for the next five innings to notch the first quality start of his career.

"He regrouped well," Hottovy said. "Millsy's a pro. The guy's been mostly a minor-league guy, but I still consider him kind of one of those veteran guys. He's smart, he's poised. He comes in after that inning and he's like, 'Yeah, I thought I did this well, I didn't do this well.' And then we talked through it and he's able to wipe it clean and then reset. 

"It was such a good job by him to be able to do that with a good hitting team — to come back and set the tone. It's easy to have that inning and then kinda let things keep escalating. He was able to go right back down the next inning and shut 'em down and that really set the tone."