Spring Training Competitions: Pitchers Edition
So, what did we learn yesterday? Let's try to recap:
- Micah Hoffpauir will break camp with the big team, according to Rob quoting Lou Piniella. I wonder if that means that Joey Gathright and So Taguchi are now officially playing for pride? Or will the Cubs go with - gasp! - a six man bullpen, allowing for another hitter to make the team?
What remains to be seen is if the Cubs will be employing a player actually capable of backing up Ramirez at third, or if they'll be expecting Mike Fontenot to pull double duty. At the moment, Jake Fox and Bobby Scales are both capable of playing third, are hitting the ball well, and face imminent cuts by Lou Piniella, while Koyie Hill is hoping to get a chance to improve upon his lifetime .190 AVG as a big leaguer. By the way - in 21 at bats last year, Hill struck out 12 times. Seriously, can Jake Fox still catch?
- Alfonso Soriano - will he play in 120 games and hit the cork out of the ball, or will he play in 162 games and steal the shiz out of the bases too? I'll just ask that we consider this: 1. His injuries have been flukish, 2. even young, powerful, speedy players have trouble hitting 40 and stealing 40, and 3. can't we just hope for health and helacious offensive production, forgetting all about this illustrious 40-40 figure? Just saying.
- Jeff Samardzija - looks like he might pitch in the pen after all. Blame Chad Gaudin for trying to suck golf balls through garden hoses on the mound.
And now, your pitchers of interest.
Sean Marshall - 13.1 IP, 0.68 ERA, 8 SO, 1 BB. Marshall has to be favored to get the 5th starter's gig, although the Cubs still don't have any standout reliable lefty relievers. Lou just might have to ignore Marshall's outstanding performance and go with the second best choice ...
Aaron Heilman - 10 IP, 1.80 ERA, 13 SO, 3 BB. Ignoring the ERA, Heilman's been pitching with authority and leads the Cubs in Spring Training strikeouts. At this point, I'd honestly not be even the slightest bit upset if he got the job.
Jeff Samardzija - 10 IP, 9.90 ERA, 6 SO, 4 BB. No offense to the Shark, but he hasn't really done anything to even warrant bullpen consideration in my opinion. Maybe Piniella will give him a shot to win a bullpen spot, and if he fails to even succeed at that then they can send him to Iowa to work on his pitches.
Jason Waddell - 8 IP, 1.13 ERA, 9 SO, 3 BB. Jason Waddell? I don't even know who that is!! He's too old to be a prospect, he's never pitched above AA ball, and he appears to have been signed as a minor league free agent from the Giants organization. Also, he's a lefty. I'd consider him to be the dark horse to make the team, but if he somehow managed to crack the squad it frees up Sean Marshall to start.
David Patton - 6.2 IP, 1.35 ERA, 7 SO, 0 BB. Patton was one of the players brought over in the Marquis trade. He's always been a strikeout pitcher, but he's never thrown above A ball. He's also not exactly known for his pinpoint control. Still, it's nice to see him have some confidence-building success. (Or he may have been the Cubs Rule 5 pick ...)
Justin Berg - 6.1 IP, 1.42 ERA, 3 SO, 3 BB. A career minor league starter with an accumulated ERA of 4.81, I don't think anybody's expecting Berg to be on the team in April.
Kevin Hart - 6.1 IP, 7.11 ERA, 10 SO 2 BB. I'm only mentioning Hart because he has 10 K's in just over 6 innings of work. He's recently put up some good numbers in the minors, but last year he was a doormat at the Major League level. The strikeout total is interesting, but I don't think Lou's paying him any attention.
Chad Gaudin - 8.2 IP, 10.38 ERA, 5 SO, 5 BB. Once a competitor for the starter's spot, once the pocket-ace of the Harden trade, Chad Gaudin is now known for pitching like crap while looking like an incest survivor. He needs a new gimmick - it's time to cut the beard and start pitching effectively. His position on the Cubs roster is no longer secure.
Angel Guzman - 5 IP, 14.40 ERA, 3 SO, 3 BB. Guzman is quickly blowing what may be his final chance to be a Cub. I know some of our readers think he could be - or should be - a huge contributor to the '09 season, but it appears as if the surgeons have shaved off some of the God-given talent that he once had. Pity.
Kevin Gregg - 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 SO, 1 BB. Gregg's been extremely efficient this spring, although he's going to have to be absolutely perfect to steal the closer's role from Carlos Marmol.
Carlos Marmol - 4 IP, 2.25 ERA, 5 SO, 1 BB. Marmol had a scary moment a few days ago in which he almost allowed the Angels to have a Big Inning. He gave up a hit and then hit two batters before striking out two to end the inning. Nobody's expecting the Dramatic Hamster to be perfect, but he's got to do better if he wants to close.
Conclusions - The bullpen situation of the Cubs is hardly resolved, but it doesn't appear shaky either. The Cubs have a lot of arms - many of them young, some of them unproven - competing for roster spots. If there are surprises to be had, they will be in the pitching staff. But what won't be surprising is if the six (or seven) men left standing turn out to be very reliable.
Hey, it's Rob, chiming in: if I were Uncle Lou, and went about this totally logically ala Mr. Spock, Heilman would be my fifth starter, Marshall would be my swing man, Gregg would close, Marmol would pitch the 8th, the Shark would start in Iowa, Gaudin and Vizcaino would be released, Guzman would be humanely euthanized, Mike Stanton would be encouraged to choose Medicare Plan D for its prescription drug benefits, Waddell would be my LOOGY which leaves Cotts, Patton and maybe Hart to fill out the rest of the pen.
But if you have read all the articles from all the "legitimate" sources, and pieced them together like an old jigsaw puzzle with most of the edges chewed off by moths, it appears that Marshall will be the 5th starter, Heilman will be the swing guy, Marmol will close, Gregg will pitch the 8th (until such time that Lou gets sick of watching Marmol repeatedly shart himself), Stanton, if he is still alive and can lift his arm on April Fools Day, will be the LOOGY, Patton, Waddell, and Hart would enjoy another year at BaconFest in Des Moines, and Vizcaino, Cotts, and Gaudin live to enjoy another year of MLB per diem.