Spring Training Series: Up on the mound- The Fifth Starter

Yesterday the news came out about who would fill the final two spots in the Cubs Starting rotation; the lucky winners are Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny. For one of these pitchers, however, the rotation spot will just be temporary, as Ted Lilly is due back sometime in the middle of May. Because of the brief stay for one of them, the two of them will be grouped together in this final look at the Cubs starting rotation. This will also likely be one of the shortest as well. While there are many fans who would rather see all four of the candidates disappear and never be heard from again, someone had to fill those voids, and a trade was not going to happen. So the four candidates went through the Spring Training games to prove themselves to Cubs Manager Lou Piniella and show why they deserved to be named to the starting five.

Now that one competition is over, the time for another has begun. Both Silva and Gorzelanny won the right to break camp as a member of the starting rotation, but only one of them will be able to keep their jobs once Lilly returns to claim his spot. The general thinking is that who ever is pitching the best between the two will remain in the rotation, while the other moves to the bullpen. How fair of a competition they will have, remains to be seen. You can not prove too much in only two or three starts, but that is exactly what they are going to have to do; because reports have been that Lilly will only miss two or three turns through the rotation. Basically, they are both going to have to have three excellent starts in a row. Better than a quality start, which is going six innings while allowing three runs at most. The excellent start, would be considered as going seven or more innings allowing two runs or less. Any slip up in any one of their starts would open the door wide for them to be thrown right into the bullpen.

With Piniella wanting one lefthander in the rotation, the door seemed to be wide open for Gorzelanny to be added almost instantly. While Sean Marshall was also considered to be a candidate, the deck seemed to be stacked against him from the start, as he never pitched more than four innings in any of his Spring games, and not because he was pitching poorly either. His experience coming out of the pen also aided in the final decision. Nonetheless, Gorzelanny was given the role. Despite his rough start, he wound up putting up some very respectable stats. Only allowing five earned runs in close to 15 innings, or one ever three, he showed that he has what is needed to have success in the majors. Whether or not he is able to continue pitching this well once the real season starts remains to be seen, but the correct decision was made.

As far as Silva, he was also likely seen to be a favorite to make the starting rotation when the Cubs acquired him in a trade for Milton Bradley. While Silva is fat, out of shape, and hasn’t pitched well since he left the Minnesota Twins, he was deemed to be more favorable than his competition Jeff Samardzija. In his first outing of the Spring, Silva got knocked around by the Chicago White Sox, which turned fans on him even more; which I didn’t think was even possible. However, in every start of his Spring Training since his ugly beginning, Silva has thrown some pretty impressive innings. Reports are that Cubs Pitching coach Larry Rothschild found a flaw in his delivery and was able to correct what he was doing wrong. Silva credit’s the work Rothschild did with him, as well as the news that his mother was finally able to get a visa so she could come and live in the United States. Since he heard the news, Silva has pitched like a whole new pitcher. To top everything off, Silva has also shed around 10 pounds since his arrival in camp, which was much needed. Hopefully there are more pounds being shed as the season goes on.

Because of the limited starting time for one of these two pitchers, I will not extend a predicition on how I believe they will do. That being said, I will say this, the fifth starter is never someone you look to throw gems. The best you can expect from a fifth starter is to eat innings, while putting up as close to a .500 record as they can. Expecting an ERA under four might also be asking for trouble. Whoever wins the job for the full time fifth starter, would hopefully throw about 160 innings, which if he gets 32 starts, would mean he goes at least five innings an outing. Hope for the best from this slot in the rotation, but expect the worst.

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