There are two weeks until Opening Week in Major League Baseball, and the Chicago Cubs front office and coaching staff will likely take most of those two weeks filling out the final spots on the Cubs’ 25 man roster. The biggest question mark that remains is who will be the final two starting pitchers added to the starting rotation?
Ryan Dempster will be the Opening Day starter while Matt Garza will follow him in the rotation. Former Pittsburgh Pirate left-hander Paul Maholm will be the team’s fifth starter. Meaning the Cubs’ third and fourth spots in their rotation are vacant. The competition remains open between Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, Chris Volstad, and Travis Wood. Though, Saturday could bring some clarity as Wells, Volstad, and Wood are all scheduled to pitch today.
Travis Wood is starting today for the Cubs’ split-squad against the San Diego Padres. Randy Wells will follow, and enter game once Wood’s day is done. Meanwhile, Chris Volstad will be starting in a Minor League game today. With all three pitchers scheduled to pitch today, and Samardzija pitching on Friday, the Cubs’ rotation picture should come into sight within the coming days.
Travis Wood is likely the Cubs’ pitcher that has the most to prove with his performance today. Wood has gone from being a favorite to land one of the two open rotation spents to being on the verge of being sent to the Iowa Cubs, and begin the season as a starting pitcher with the Cubs’ Triple A affiliate. The issue with Wood is that he has shown an impressive arsenal of pitches, but, he has yet to prove that he command that arsenal. The same issue that plagued him with the Cincinatti Reds. There is talk that this could be Wood’s last appearance with the Major League team during Spring Training. Manager Dale Sveum has told reporters that he would like to have the Cubs’ 25 man roster figured out at some point next week, so it would make sense that today will be Wood’s final opportunity to impress the Cubs’ coaching staff. Though considered how less effective Wood has appeared to be in comparison to Wells, Volstad, and Samardzija; one would have to wonder how much of an opportunity exists for the 25 year old pitcher. But if Wood can prove with his start today that he can command his arsenal and throw strikes, I guess as the cliche goes “never say never.” But at this point, barring a trade, Wood does not appear to have a spot on the Cubs’ 25 man roster.
Randy Wells is in an interesting position with the Cubs in 2012. For the second straight Spring, Wells has had to enter camp with the idea that he had once again earn a rotation spot, and prove to the Cubs’ that he can be a capable starting pitcher. Like last Spring, Wells has pitched well as the Cubs have progressed through their cactus league schedule. The issue is that Wells’ may not be the flavor of the week. With Samardzija being the most impressive pitcher in camp, and Volstad being one of the few acquisitions of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer this off-season, Wells may have fallen out of favor with the Cubs’ front office. Though, unlike Wood, Wells will start the season on a 25 man roster. However, it may not be the Cubs’ 25 man roster. With it being unlikely that Wells will be a part of the Cubs’ starting rotation, the bullpen figures to be the resting place for the catcher-turned-pitcher. Wells has proven that he is capable of being a respectable starting pitcher in the National League, and at times, Wells has been the best pitcher in the Cubs’ starting rotation. Around Major League Baseball, there is always a need for starting pitching. Teams such as the Detroit Tigers, St Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Los Angeles Angels may all be looking to acquire a starting pitcher before Opening Day. Which is why when Wells takes the mound for the Cubs today, the Padres will not be the only team that is in observance.
The only thing that is standing in the way of Chris Volstad earning a rotation spot is…well…nothing. While Samardzija has been the most impressive pitcher in the Cubs’ camp this Spring, Volstad has not been that far behind. In fact, Volstad has matched Samardzija pitch for pitch. While Volstad was the afterthought in a trade that sent Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins, many expect the former Marlin to be one of the surprises of the 2012 season. Having spoken with people who have covered the Marlins during Volstad’s time with the organization, there seems to be consensus among them that Volstad is capable of being a successful starting pitcher. None were willing to say that he is capable of being a top-end starting pitcher, but they agreed that he has the potential to be a very successful starting pitcher with the Cubs. Volstad will likely slide into the fourth spot in the Cubs’ rotation behind Samardzija. As long as Volstad remains healthy between now and Opening Day, then the 6’8 23o pounder will call the starting rotation his home for the 2012 season.