Cubs will take another look at Cashner vs. Silva

Cubs will take another look at Cashner vs. Silva

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted 5:31 p.m. Updated 6:58 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Andrew Cashner hasnt done anything to make the Cubs second-guess their decision to commit to him as a starter. But he also hasnt done enough to claim the fifth spot in the rotation just yet.

Cashner has firm grip on rotation spot

At least thats what it sounded like after manager Mike Quade emerged from Tuesdays strategy session at HoHoKam Park. No hard news came out of the meeting between Quade, his coaches, general manager Jim Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush.

WATCH: Riggins on the rotation race

But the Cubs will take another look at Carlos Silva, who has seemed lost this spring but will start again Wednesday against the Oakland As in Mesa. Publicly, Silva stays in the picture.

I never count anybody out, Quade said. Im anxious to see him pitch tomorrow. There are still some tough decisions. Nothings definitive. I have a lot to sleep on andor not sleep on tonight regarding the pitching.

Expect another round of cuts on Thursday, if not sooner, and firm rotation answers should come by the weekend. Randy Wells looks like a lock as the No. 4 starter, but no one else has really pushed Cashner.

Silva hasnt had a good feel for his pitches and has struggled with his confidence. Hes given up 26 runs 20 earned on 29 hits in 11 13 innings.

Todd Wellemeyer has been slowed by a hip injury that will make it difficult for him to break camp with the club. Braden Loopers ERA shot up to 10.97 after allowing eight runs in two innings his last time out.

No one has been good from start to finish, Quade said. No one battling for that spot has been consistent that I will say. And that will worry me when the fifth spot in the rotation has not been consistent in May or June.

Quade will meet with Hendry and Bush again on Wednesday morning, though the manager pointed out that theyre already in agreement on most of the decisions. One primary factor is how Quades going to run a game.

Quade said the idea of carrying four left-handers relievers Sean Marshall, John Grabow, James Russell and Scott Maine isnt off the table yet. But any bullpen plan is premised upon how many innings the Cubs can expect out of their starters, and how they might incorporate a long man.

So far Cashner hasnt exceeded four innings. He threw almost 60 pitches before Mondays start was washed away by rain. Given his age and pedigree, the 24-year-old first-round pick is still the one with the most upside potential.

Look, the kids a work in progress, Quade said. It would be great for him to get through five innings. I would like to see him make 80 or 85 pitches.

Silvas situation is complicated by the 13.5 million hes guaranteed through this seasons salary and a 2012 buyout. Hell get another shot to make an impression.

None of these decisions (are) easy, Quade said. Well take everything into account and try to make the best decision that we can. Sometimes guys make it easier for you, and sometimes they dont.

Etc.

Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster stretched out to six innings and allowed one run on six hits in Tuesdays 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. My body feels good and my pitches feel good, said Dempster, who lowered his spring ERA to 1.88. John Grabow submitted his third consecutive scoreless inning out of the bullpen. Jeff Samardzija (6.23 ERA) gave up the winning run in the 10th inning. Aramis Ramirez continues to feel sick and monitor a high fever, but the third baseman took batting practice and hopes to play Wednesday. Carlos Zambrano will pitch Wednesday in a minor-league game.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Patrick Mooney goes one-on-one with Jed Hoyer

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Patrick Mooney goes one-on-one with Jed Hoyer

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull and Luke Stuckmeyer talk about the first week of spring training. 

The two discuss ace contracts, leadoff intimidation and give their thoughts on the Sammy Sosa saga. 

Plus CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney goes one-on-one with general manager Jed Hoyer. 

Listen to the Cubs Talk Podcast below. 

Cubs eager to see the Jason Heyward relaunch in Cactus League

Cubs eager to see the Jason Heyward relaunch in Cactus League

MESA, Ariz. — Cactus League stats are supposed to be irrelevant, especially for the guy with the biggest contract in franchise history. Jason Heyward already built up a reservoir of goodwill as a former All Star, three-time Gold Glove defender and World Series champion. The intangibles got Heyward $184 million guaranteed, and the Cubs are hoping a new comfort level will lead to a Jon Lester effect in Year 2 of that megadeal.

But Heyward will still be one of the most scrutinized players in Mesa after an offseason overhaul that tried to recapture the rhythm and timing he felt with the 2012 Braves (27 homers) and break some of the bad habits that had slowly crept into his high-maintenance left-handed swing.

"If there's ever any doubt," Heyward said, "then you probably shouldn't be here."

Heyward will be batting leadoff and starting in right field on Saturday afternoon when the Cubs open their exhibition schedule with a split-squad game against the A's at Sloan Park. If Heyward has anything to prove this spring, it's "probably to himself, not to us," general manager Jed Hoyer said, backing a player who does the little things so well and commands respect throughout the clubhouse.

"There's going to be growing pains with making adjustments," Hoyer said. "He'll probably have some good days and some bad days. But I think the most important thing is that he feels comfortable and uses these five weeks to lock in and get ready for the Cardinals."

The Cubs are betting on Heyward's age (27), track record (three seasons where he showed up in the National League MVP voting), understanding of the strike zone (.346 career on-base percentage) and willingness to break down his swing this winter at the team's Arizona complex.

At the same time, Heyward realizes "it's just the offseason" and "a never-ending process in baseball." There are no sweeping conclusions to be made when the opposing starting pitcher showers, talks to the media and leaves the stadium before the game ends.

"I'm not sitting here telling you: 'Oh, I know for sure what's going to happen,'" Heyward said. "I don't know how it's going to go. But I know I did a damn good job of preparing for it."

[MORE CUBS: No hard feelings: Cubs and Pedro Strop look to future with contract extension]

Manager Joe Maddon — who gave Heyward nearly 600 plate appearances to figure it out during the regular season (.631 OPS) before turning him into a part-time outfielder in the playoffs (5-for-48) — usually thinks batting practice is overrated or a waste of time. But at 6-foot-5 — and with so much riding on an offensive resurgence — Heyward is hard to miss.

"I can see it's a lot freer and the ball's coming off hotter," Maddon said. "But it's all about game. I'm really eager for him, because everybody just talks about all the work he's done all winter.

"Conversationally with him, I sense or feel like he feels good about it and that he's kind of at a nice peaceful moment with himself. So it will be really fun to watch."

A 103-win season, an American League-style lineup that scored 808 runs, a new appreciation for defensive metrics and a professional attitude helped provide cover for Heyward, who largely escaped the wrath of Cubs fans with little patience for big-ticket free agents.

"Baseball is a game that's going to humble you every day," Heyward said. "You're going to fail more times than you succeed, so it's all about how you handle it, as an individual and as a group. We handled it the best out of anyone last year as a team. And that's why we were able to win the World Series.

"There's always things you feel like you need to work on. You can ask guys who had the best years — there's always something they're trying to improve on and something they don't feel great about at a certain point in time during the year.

"I just happened to have a little bit more breaking down to do. A lot of things allowed me to just kind of pause (and) look forward and not really think about trying to compete and win a game. Let's just get some work done."