PHOENIX — The Cubs will need a fifth starter to replace Jake Arrieta in April. Reading between the lines, it appears that choice is down to veteran swingman Carlos Villanueva or left-hander Chris Rusin.
James McDonald threw two pitches in Monday’s 6-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and walked off the field with assistant athletic trainer Ed Halbur. McDonald’s second pitch hit the backstop, and the Cubs called it “right shoulder soreness” in their preliminary report.
“He’s shaking his arm when we went out there just to talk to him,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He felt that his arm wasn’t feeling right, so we just said: OK, we’ll just not take any chances. Let’s go ahead and take him in, and he’ll be evaluated.”
One year ago on St. Patrick’s Day, Scott Baker got one out and walked off the same mound in what turned out to be a major setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
The Cubs waited until Feb. 13 to announce McDonald’s one-year deal — $1 million, plus incentives, on a standard non-guaranteed contract for an arbitration-eligible player. He won 12 games and made 29 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 but missed most of last season with a strained right shoulder.
McDonald already looked like a long shot to make the rotation, coming into the game with a 12.71 ERA after giving up eight runs on six hits and eight walks in 5.2 innings. Tsuyoshi Wada hasn’t impressed either, allowing seven runs on 10 hits and five walks in 5.2 innings.
While Arrieta regains strength in his right shoulder, the Cubs can debate Villanueva vs. Rusin.
“There are any number of ways we can do it,” Renteria said. “But right now, as it stands, I just want to make sure (McDonald’s) OK.”