Battle for the 5th starter: Aaron Heilman vs. Sean Marshall

The battle for the fifth starter spot is really taking off, with only two candidates remaining in my opinion. Aaron Heilman and Sean Marshall are both putting on some great performances thus far in Spring Training, and have separated themselves from the pack. Both men want that job, and are stating there cases for Cubs manager Lou Piniella each time they take the mound. The question is, who would you rather have where in the Cubs pitching staff.

This spring, Heilman has appeared in, and started two games so far, pitching a total of five innings. During that time, he has only given up two hits, and allowing no runs to score. He has looked sharp with his control, striking out seven batters, while only walking two. In both of his spring starts, Heilman has faced the Chicago White Sox, giving up one hit in each of his outings.

In his first outing on February 28, he only pitched two innings, throwing 15 pitches, all of which were thrown for strikes. In that game, he struck out 4 batters while getting the other two out on ground balls. His second outing on March 5, he pitched three innings, throwing a total 52 pitches of which 29 landed for strikes. He struck out three and walked two. While that isn’t a good strike out to walk ratio, he only gave up one hit without allowing a run. So far this spring, Heilman has a perfect earned run average. He is taking care of his business on the field and stating his case on why he should appointed to the fifth starters role over his main competition in Marshall.

Like Heilman, Marshall has started both games that he has appeared in, and has also pitched a total of five innings. In his first start of spring of on February 26, Marshall faced the Milwaukee Brewers for two innings threw only 11 pitches, all of which landed for strikes. Even though he only struck out one batter, he did not issue a walk. In the first start of his spring, he gave up for hits and allowed a run to score. In his second start, Marshall had a much better showing. He pitched three innings of hitless ball, while striking out one batter without walking anyone. He threw 11 pitches, just like in his first outing, and every pitch again landed for a strike. He is showing excellent command of the strike zone in the time he has been given. With this spring start, Marshall lowered his spring ERA to a sparkling 1.80.

Both men are stating their cases and are looking like they will be a great addition to the Cubs pitching staff no matter where they land. While I have made it known that I believe Marshall would be better served coming out of the bullpen because of the need of a second lefty, he is making me rethink the role I think he would be better suited for. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still think that we need a second left handed pitcher in the pen; having a second lefty in the starting rotation might not be such a bad idea either. No matter how the hand plays out for both Heilman and Marshall, I think that our fifth starter slot will be filled by a pitcher who will be more then capable of carrying his own weight.

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