Cubs searching for answers on pitching staff

Cubs searching for answers on pitching staff
April 19, 2011, 2:06 am
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Monday, April 18, 2011Posted: 8:50 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The Cubs havent felt the aftershocks yet. Theyve managed to get by with 40 percent of their rotation on the disabled list, but who knows how long that will last.

Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are said to be making progress. They were scheduled to see Dr. Stephen Gryzlo, the teams orthopaedist, on Monday night for re-evaluations that could be the first step toward outlining throwing programs.

Wells (forearm strain) played catch on Monday and is viewed as likely to return to the rotation ahead of Cashner (rotator cuff strain).

The state of the pitching staff is such that Wells was the last Cub to submit a quality start on April 4 until Carlos Zambrano stepped up on Monday night. The Cubs began the day with a 5.26 ERA that ranked tied for 14th in the National League, and opponents were hitting .280 against them.

The most surprising development has been the struggles of Ryan Dempster (1-2, 6.84) and Matt Garza (0-2, 6.27), who were perceived to be the teams two most reliable starters.

We all believe we should have a few more wins, general manager Jim Hendry said. We all feel that Demp and Garza are going to throw better than they have. (You) get the other guys back and then all of a sudden youve got a pretty interesting club.

In the meantime, James Russell will make a second spot start on Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres. If the predicted rain and thunder doesnt wash out the game, Russell will stretch out to around 70 pitches.

The 25-year-old left-hander got five outs last week in his first career big-league start, which ended as an 11-2 loss to the Houston Astros.

You can only hope itll go better, Russell said. I feel great my bodys well enough to handle (it).

Russell does not project as a starter and will be moved back into the bullpen. The Cubs are monitoring things on all fronts.

Doug Davis, who agreed to a minor-league deal last week, is in Mesa, Ariz., for extended spring training and could be at an affiliate by months end.

Todd Wellemeyer has only really just begun throwing to live hitters after dealing with a nagging hip injury. The hope is that hes about a week away from a simulated game.

Brian Schlitter, the Maine South High School graduate, has been returned to the Cubs organization and added to the 40-man roster, which stands at 39. During the offseason, the Cubs outrighted Schlitter, who was claimed by the New York Yankees before the Philadelphia Phillies grabbed him off waivers in February. Major League Baseball ruled that Schlitters elbow issues were a preexisting condition, and the 25-year-old right-hander will report to Mesa later in the week.

Ramon Ortiz, another veteran recently added to the inventory, threw three innings Sunday for Triple-A Iowa and gave up three runs on seven hits. The 38-year-old right-hander has almost 1,400 innings on his resume.

Hes a guy thats got a lot of big-league time, Hendry said. Well just keep him working and see how it goes. But were not disappointed in the guys that are here.

No matter what happens, the Cubs will need more from their frontline starters. Dempster prides himself on giving his team a chance to win and by his count, hes only done that once in four starts. The frustration is mounting.

I know theyre professional hitters on the other side, Dempster said. You have to tip your cap to them sometimes. But when you throw the ball over the middle of the plate too much, you dont tip your cap to anybody. You look in the mirror and do a better job.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.