While Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner continue to rehab their respective injuries, James Russell has been given the foolish identity of a starting pitcher. After yet another sub-par outing last night that saw Russell give up three home runs for the second consecutive start it is clear that James Russell should move back to the bullpen immediately.
Manager Mike Quade admitted as much after last night’s game when he said that Russell is at his best when he is a situational lefty coming from the bullpen instead of a starting pitcher. Yet, Quade left the door open for the possibility that Russell may remain in the rotation for when the fifth starter’s spot comes back around this Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
However, it should be pretty clear that if he wants give his team the best chance to win, then James Russell should be placed back in the bullpen. That remains a possibility as Quade still is undecided on whether or not he wants James Russell to remain in the rotation.
If Quade decides to go with a different option for the fifth starter’s spot, there is a strong chance that option will be one of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune as well as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times report that Jay Jackson may be called up this weekend to start on Sunday against the Diamondbacks.
Depending on what source you read, Jackson falls somewhere among the top ten prospects in the Cubs’ farm system. FanGraphs list Jackson as the fifth best prospect in the Cubs’ system and the third best pitching prospect for the Cubs. At one point last season, Jackson was believed to be on the same path as Andrew Cashner and was expected to make his major league debut. But after regressing a little bit in Triple A-Iowa last season, Jackson took a back seat to Cashner.
Jackson is off to a stellar start with Triple A-Iowa after his first two starts of the season. Jackson has an ERA of 2.31 to go along with 5 strikeouts and an opponent’s batting average of .158 through 11.2 innings of work.
The situation sets up perfectly for Jackson to make his major league debut on Sunday, as that is the day that he is scheduled to start for the Iowa Cubs. Calling up Jackson would certainly be an interesting move for the Cubs. As you would have to wonder just how long would Jackson stay in the majors?
Looking at the Cubs schedule, the next time they would need a fifth starter would be during next weekend’s series against the Cincinnatti Reds. That figures to be the last time that whoever the fifth starter is gets a start as Randy Wells will likely return soon after that. Meaning Casey Coleman–who is currently the fourth starter–would slide into the fifth spot in the rotation until Andrew Cashner is ready to return.
But that does not mean that Jay Jackson would be sent down once Wells returns. It all determines on what the Cubs’ long-term plan is for Jackson. If they envision Jackson as a starting pitcher, then he will likely return to Iowa where he can work on his starting skills. But if the Cubs feel Jackson’s future is as a reliever, then Jackson could very well remain in the Cubs’ bullpen for the time being.
This is all speculative as Jackson has not even been called up yet, but, it bodes watching what Mike Quade will do with the fifth spot in his rotation.