Paul Maholm needed 41 pitches to get through his first inning at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform. When it was over, he walked off the mound to sarcastic applause.
The Cubs know a lot of things will have to break right if theyre going to contend this season. But they feel confident that theyll put a credible starting pitcher on the mound 162 times this season.
Yes, this is only about three percent of the season. But this business is all about taking snapshots. The Cubs are 1-4 after their first run through the rotation.
It was a raw, cold Tuesday night at Clark and Addison 40 degrees at first pitch and still the Milwaukee Brewers blasted Maholm in front of 37,265 fans. A 7-4 loss showed the margins for this Cubs team.
To put it blunt, I sucked, Maholm said.
One through five, manager Dale Sveum feels like his rotation can stack up with anyone. The bullpen will cause anxiety, and the lineup wont outslug the opposition on most nights. But the Cubs should probably be better than 1-4 right now.
Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Chris Volstad combined to throw 27.1 innings and allowed only seven earned runs. They notched 29 strikeouts against six walks and limited hitters to a .170 average.
Maholm simply didnt have it against the Brewers (3-2), walking two batters and hitting two more in a first inning so off that ex-Cub Aramis Ramirez even stole a base during this sequence.
Alex Gonzalez drilled what Maholm called a bad cutter (that) pretty much turns into a BP fastball through a strong wind and into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer.
The Brewers took a 5-0 lead. In the end, it didnt really matter that Maholm who gave up six runs in four innings steadied himself.
He just couldnt put anybody away, Sveum said. I didnt think he had a good feel for his curveball at all (or) keeping his changeup down. He couldnt get the ball inside for strikes. It just snowballed a little bit in that first inning. He settled down and did OK after that, but the damage was done already.
Maholm had spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization until signing a 4.25 million deal here (with a 6.5 million club option for 2013 or a 500,000 buyout). The 29-year-old left-hander broke the news on his Twitter account over the winter.
It wasnt a huge story, but it showed the front offices top priority. Pitching depth was exactly what this team needed. Maholm has accounted for at least 160 innings in each of his last six seasons. If the Cubs are going to make it interesting, it will be on the rotation.
I dont know if it was trying to do too much, but its one of 30-something starts, Maholm said. Obviously, (we) want to get off to a better start than we have. But weve been in almost every game. (Its) a long season. Well battle back and well get after it tomorrow.