Wednesday, April 13, 2011

With Russell Clearly Out, Who is in?

Last night Mike Quade and Jim Hendry realized what the rest of us already knew, James Russell isn't a starting pitcher. Sure, it took a bullpen crippling outing, but the Cubs never were good about knowing their own personnel.

With that over, its time to figure out who is actually going to fill in the fifth starter slot while Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner heal from their injuries.

Sean Marshall

The Cubs' best setup man also happens to be a pretty decent starting pitcher. Marshall spent a good portion of his younger days (see 2007-2009) as a fill in starting pitcher, and always did a decent job. Of all the in house options, he's the best, but it isn't the no-brainer decision it appears to be.

If Marshall were to move to the rotation, the bullpen would take a big hit. Marshall is the team's best left handed setup guy, and also the second best relief pitcher on the team. John Grabow would become to go to lefty at the end of games, which is a disaster waiting to happen.

Marshall also had a tendency to get injured when he was starting, and the last thing the Cubs need is more injured pitchers.

Despite some concerns, Marshall is a somewhat proven commodity as a starter, with a 4.86 ERA in 59 career starts. Not numbers that will blow anyone away, but better than bringing in an over the hill body from AAA.

Ramon Ortiz and Doug Davis

These two will work in AAA Iowa for a couple of weeks in an attempt to see if there is anything less in the tank. Ortiz has thrown 30 innings since 2008, all of them last year with the Dodgers, and all of them bad. He has a career ERA+ of 91, and at age 37, isn't likely to leave Iowa this season.

Davis just signed two days ago, and probably won't be ready until mid-May. Better for the Cubs anyway, since Davis looked like he was done last season. Before multiple health issues last year, Davis did put together six decent seasons for the Brewers and Diamondbacks. He has a career ERA+ of 104, but his best days are clearly behind him.

Ortiz won't make it out of AAA this season, but I think Davis will eventually make a start or two for the Cubs. Just not anytime soon. For now, its best to forget these two are even around.

Jay Jackson

Perhaps the closest thing to a MLB ready prospect, Jackson would probably be in the Cubs rotation right now if he was healthy. Sadly, he is still in Mesa rehabbing a sore elbow. Once he gets healthy though, Jackson could move quickly to Chicago. He has youth and upside, which beats the heck out of watching Doug Davis eat innings.

Thomas Diamond

The guy we all know is going to join the rotation soon. Diamond made three starts last season for the Cubs, and predictably didn't fare so well. Still, he is stretched out, and has something resembling MLB experience.

In two starts this season for the I-Cubs, Diamond has allowed 11 earned runs in seven and a third innings. Good for a 13.50 ERA, which means he is still an upgrade over whatever James Russell did last night.

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