Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring Training Preview: The Starting Rotation

Carlos Zambrano
Big Z worked out hard and dropped some weight this offseason. Nine wins is not going to cut it this year. Zambrano says he's finally calmed down, but we've heard that before. If there one guy on the Chicago Cubs that needs to step it up the most, it's Carlos. The Cubs lack the "ace" that most of the elite baseball teams have. When he's on he shows signs of being the horse, but inconsistency has riddled Zambrano's career.
My Prediction: Lock for Opening Day Roster and rotation

Ryan Dempster
After a great 2008 season in which he moved to the rotation and put up 17 wins, Dempster faltered in 2009, possibly in part because of off the field family distractions. Demp said at the Cubs Convention that his daughter is starting to do better. Hopefully this will lead to a return to 2008 form, and he's not the lone Cub in that category. Ryan's a great guy, and we wish him the best on and off the field.
My Prediction: Lock for Opening Day roster and rotation

Randy Wells
The Cubs' rotation could really hinge on Wells. Randy had a marvelous rookie campaign a year ago, but as Cubs fans experienced first hand with Soto a year ago, the dreaded sophomore slump is always a possibility. Can Wells really be counted on to be a consistent middle of the rotation starter after less than one season in the bigs? Lou has him penciled in to the rotation, but we'll have to wait and see how it turns out!
My Prediction: Lock for Opening Day Roster and rotation

Ted Lilly
The Bulldog was the only Cub on the NL All-Star team in 2009, and although he did suffer and injury and miss some time in the second half, he and Wells were the best Cub pitcher last year. Lilly had a shoulder surgery this offseason, so he will miss Spring Training and most likely not be ready to start until mid to late April. 2010, his 3rd season with the Cubs, will be a big year for Lilly because afterwards he will hit the free agent market. Right now, however, he will focus on getting healthy and returning to a rotation that cannot afford to lose guys for long periods of time.
My Prediction: Will start the year on the DL

Jeff Samardzija
The Shark pitched great out of the bullpen in the final few months of the 2008 season, but then struggled when he was given a chance to start in 2009. The former Notre Dame football standout has bounced back and forth between AAA and the big leagues and between the rotation and the bullpen over the last two years. He has worked on developing some new pitchers in Mexican Winter Ball this offseason. Samardzija has made it clear that he wants to be in the rotation rather than the pen.
My Prediction: Will start the year in the Cubs' rotation

Tom Gorzelanny
Gorzo was acquired from the Pirates just before the trade deadline last July, and went 7-3 in 22 games (7 starts) with the Cubs in the final two months. The Chicago native is a left handed hurler and is also fighting for the final spot in the Cubs' rotation. He has more experience in the big leagues than Samardzija does, but does he have better stuff?
My Prediction: Will start the year taking Lilly's spot in the rotation, before moving to the bullpen when Ted returns.

Sean Marshall
Marshall has done just about everything since making his big league debut with the Cubs in 2006. This lefty's Cub resume includes starting, relieving, being used as a swing man, long relief, left handed specialist, set-up man, and even playing left field for one batter last July in a Sunday night game at Wrigley against the Cardinals. Sean has paid his dues succeeding in just about every role the Cubs have tossed him in to. However, the Cubs could use him in a utility role once again.
My Prediction: Swing Man

Carlos Silva
The best thing about Silva- his name is not Milton Bradley. The Cubs acquired Silva in a swap of bad contracts with Seattle this offseason, and according a multiple reports out of Arizona, Lou Piniella is not pleased with the shape that Carlos has reported to camp in. Silva will get into some Spring Training games and try to win a spot in the rotation, but most likely will not be a major factor this season in any capacity.
My Prediction: Will start the season hidden on the DL

So, if Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Samardzija, Gorzelanny, and Marshall all make 25-man roster, which most likely they will, there are just 6 spots left on the pitching staff even with Lilly and Silva starting the season on the DL. There are 14 pitchers in camp (plus Silva) competing for those six spots in the bullpen, and I'll have the pen preview for you sometime in the next couple of days!

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