Chicago Cubs: Is it time for a change in the starting rotation?


Is it time for the Cubs to make a move at the back of the rotation with Haren and Hendricks?

Each spring as baseball finds its way back onto the field, teams like the Chicago Cubs have a renewed hope and vigor for the upcoming season. There are always a few position battles to be had, and the back-end of the rotation is often one of the critical ones for all teams. Most teams have their ace, some may have two. There’s always that No. 3 you can count on, but as you get to the last two spots things can get interesting.

The Cubs had that issue this spring in Mesa. It was a battle royale among Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jacob Turner, and Felix Doubront. Wood eventually won the job out of camp, as many of us believed he should and would. After a stretch of rough starts in mid-May, Wood was moved to the bullpen in favor of Wada. He fared better, but a shoulder issue forced him to the DL–leading to the plethora of arms we’ve seen since.

Of those who battled in the spring, only Wood and Wada remain active. Turner is on the 60-day DL with no timetable for his return. Clayton Richard came in along the way and fared well in his starts, going 2-0 with an ERA of 3.00 and a WHIP 1.056. The Cubs were lucky to retain his services–which actually took him being released and then resigned–and he’s been a key lefty in the pen. We’ve talked about Kyle Hendricks up-and-down season, and Dan Haren hasn’t “wowed” us in his time in Chicago, although his last start was encouraging.

But the fact is the Cubs seem to have two holes in the rotation that need to be filled. The Cubs don’t need Hendricks to be the untouchable guy he was when he went 29 straight scoreless innings, but they need more than the short outings he’s been giving them, which has put more pressure on the bullpen. A bullpen that now may be looked at to supply a possible replacement in this rotation.

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The evolution of the Cubs staff leaves more questions than answers for the starting rotation. As the rosters expand, there are more arms, but this is a playoff push–you can’t put just anyone in there. Wada, Wood and Richards all are viable candidates. But Wada hasn’t been stretched out, and neither has Wood. Richard may be the most likely candidate, but with any of them you’ll be hoping for the best, expecting the worst. Which is sort of the spot the Cubs are in already with those two spots.

The final two spots in the rotation will get approximately 12 starts, assuming the rotation stays the same–which if the Cubs can clinch a Wild Card early it won’t. The luckiest part for the Cubs is that the Giants don’t seem to have any desire to make a run at them for the second Wild Card. If the Cubs just wanted to “hang on” then this would be ideal. But skipper Joe Maddon and the rest of this team have their sights set on catching Pittsburgh and hosting the Wild Card playoff, not traveling to PNC Park for it.

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