Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 8:20 PM
By Patrick Mooney
MESA, Ariz. Carlos Silva is a proud man, emotional and sometimes defensive. He doesnt understand why reporters keep asking him about this competition at the back end of the Cubs rotation.
Silva will turn 32 in April and he overlooks the way last season ended. He doesnt need to take anything for the heart procedure he underwent, and says his elbow is fine. Those health issues limited the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound right-hander to 5.1 innings combined last August and September.
I dont think its a reason to take me out of the rotation, but theyre the boss, Silva said Tuesday. Theyre the ones that make the decision. If I have to win my spot, Ill do it. I have no problem with that. (But) for me, theres only maybe one spot open, because I am one of the starters.
In Silvas mind, he is the pitcher who reached the 2010 All-Star break at 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 17 starts. He dismisses any concerns about his physical conditioning.
The only thing you need to do is put zeroes on the board and everybodys going to be happy, Silva said. Youre going to have perfect weight, the best-looking face. Youre the perfect guy. (It) was two-months-and-a-half like that.
Everybody cheered for Carlos. Something bad happened: Boom, you need to lose weight, you need to do this (and that).
Only in Chicago
Silva instantly grew close with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who helped him clear his mind on the mound. Rothschild eventually left to take the same job with the New York Yankees, and a new pitching coach (Mark Riggins) is one X-factor in this search process.
Riggins was the St. Louis Cardinals minor-league pitching coordinator when they made Braden Looper the third overall pick in the 1996 draft. Looper is 36 now with graying hair. He disappeared last year when he didnt receive an offer he liked after making 34 starts and winning 14 games with a 5.22 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Looper lives in Chicagos south suburbs with his wife and three kids and eased toward retirement. He coached his son in Little League, and didnt watch much baseball, except for the two field trips his team took to White Sox games. His kids are in school, and in pitching for the Cubs he wouldnt have to completely uproot his family.
This was the one situation that worked out perfect, he said.
Looper, who has saved 103 games in his career, isnt inclined to return to the bullpen, nor is he looking to showcase himself for another team if it doesnt happen with the Cubs.
I prefer starting without a doubt, he said, but the best way I can put it is this is the one team (where) I would consider anything. Well just cross those bridges when we come to it.
Somebodys going to be disappointed
Mike Quades right in saying that. Heres what else we know: Andrew Cashner and James Russell will be stretched out, but could slide back into their bullpen roles if they dont stick as starters. Jeff Samardzija, who is out of minor-league options, is being ticketed for the bullpen. The rotation will most likely be five right-handers.
And the manager will place a premium on experience when evaluating the fourth and fifth starters.
So you shouldnt discount what Randy Wells has done the past two years, or the more than 1,200 innings Silva has thrown in his career. Not to mention the 6 million of Silvas 11.5 million salary the Cubs will have to pay this season. (The Seattle Mariners are picking up the rest of the tab as part of the Milton Bradley deal.)
Its realistic to take different pieces of a guys career, including his current health and status and performance in spring training, Quade said. But the balance probably is based more on what a guy has done at the major-league level in the past.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.