Minor league pitcher Donn Roach will make his Chicago Cubs debut tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals. The 25-year-old righty recorded a 7-1 record and a 2.29 ERA in 14 games with the Cubs Triple-A affiliate this season.
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Roach will replace the injured Tsuyoshi Wada who was scheduled to make the start on Saturday. He exited the game on Monday with shoulder soreness during the Cubs 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cubs manager Joe Maddon expressed concern about his ability to start tonight earlier this week.
"There’s still some soreness there. We’re not prepared to say yes or no on the next start. We’ll wait a little while longer. It was better but we want to be certain about that. – Maddon via Chicago Sun-Times"
Roach was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the third round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft. He was traded to the San Diego Padres along with Alexi Amarista in 2012. He made his Major League debut with the Padres on April 2, 2014. The Cubs claimed him off of waivers in November 2014 and designated him for assignment in December 2014.
Despite having over one year between Major League starts, Roach is confident that he can get the job done tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs front office believe that Roach was the best candidate within the organization to make the start on Saturday night. Relievers Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson were also considered.
According to Fan Graphs, Roach has only struck out 12.1 percent of batters that he has faced throughout his career. His fastball only clocks in at around 90 miles per hour and his slider has below the average velocity at around 81 miles per hour. Instead of overpowering hitters with top-end velocity, Roach relies on his sinker to force hitters into ground outs.
In fact, over his career he has averaged 3.5 groundouts for every flyout. In addition, Roach has two secondary pitches: a curveball and a split-finger fastball. Roach lacks a “put-away” pitch, instead relying on finesse on his sinker to get hitters out. Roach goes as his sinker does, and expect a similar pattern to unfold tonight when he makes his Chicago Cubs debut.
The promotion of Donn Roach illuminates an overarching problem within the Cubs organization right now. The Cubs are thin on starting pitching depth both in the Majors and in their Minor League system.
Free agent acquisition Jon Lester has disappointed thus far this season. In 15 starts, he is 4-6 with a 4.03 ERA. When he signed last winter for $155 million across six seasons, the expectation was that he would be the ace that the Chicago Cubs have lacked for so long. As of now, his numbers are more indicative of an average back-end rotational arm.
After starting the season well, Kyle Hendricks’ ERA has ballooned in the month of June. In his last five starts, he has posted a 1-3 record and a 5.88 ERA. Hendricks lacks the plus fastball or commanding movement to be a top end rotational pitcher in the Major Leagues.
As previously mentioned, Tsuyoshi Wada has been hampered by injuries recently. This is a major problem moving forward because the Cubs are thin in the minor league starting pitching depth. President Theo Epstein is worried about the lack of depth within the Cubs Minor League System.
The Chicago Cubs need upgrade their starting rotation and with the trade deadline looming at the end of July, they may make a move to acquire it sooner rather than later. As for now, the Cubs are going to fill the rotational holes with minor league band-aids and hope for the best.
Meanwhile, they’ll look to avoid their fourth straight loss tonight as Donn Roach faces off against Michael Wacha at 6:15 PM Central Time. Roach looks to kick off his Chicago Cubs career on the right foot and maybe earn a spot in a starting rotation that desperately needs help.
You can watch tonight’s game live on FOX or listen to the radio broadcast over at WBBM 780.
Here’s a look at tonight’s starting lineup’s: