November 26, 2014
Try to forget for a minute how similar the ugly loss Wednesday was to so many of those no-chance games the Cubs played the last two months of last season — the ones with waiver pickups and minor-league guys filling a trade-ravaged rotation.
When Matt Garza joins Scott Feldman as a dearly departed productive starter from the Cubs’
rotation in the next week or so, the Cubs have high hopes they’ll be able to keep a representative — if not competitive — rotation on the field down the stretch.
Granted, Jeff Samardzija, the losing pitcher Wednesday, is one of the guys who’s supposed to play a major role in making that happen, his worst start of the season in a 13-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels notwithstanding.
And granted, too, the Cubs aren’t talking about getting back in any kind of playoff race, despite their recent upswing in the face of trades completed and coming.
‘‘That still takes a 10-game winning streak to say, ‘OK, now we’ve got a chance,’ ’’ manager Dale
But Scott Baker is scheduled to throw a bullpen session for pitching coach Chris Bosio on Thursday at Wrigley Field. After that, the Cubs will decide when and where to send him for a minor-league rehab
assignment that should put him on track for a season debut right about the time they need someone after Garza inevitably is traded.
And Travis Wood, the guy who Tuesday throttled an Angels lineup that clobbered Samardzija, is suddenly an All-Star pitcher with more quality starts (17) before the break than any Cubs pitcher since Greg Maddux 25 years ago.
‘‘Last year was a pretty unusual situation,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said of a rotation depleted by trades, an injury to Garza and the innings limit put on Samardzija in his first season as a starter. ‘‘There’s no question that the pitching staff we ran out there in September was, uh, short. I think we feel a lot better about that. We have a lot more depth in the minor leagues, more depth on the major-league roster. We’re not as concerned about that [this year].’’
In fact, the emergence of Wood and the potential return to the mound of a former 15-game winner in Baker has the potential to change the complexion of the Cubs’ starting-pitching depth going into next season.
It certainly makes it easier — and more palatable — to trade Garza now instead of feeling the pressure to give him the high-end, free-agent-level contract it would take to extend him.
Baker was considered a candidate for extension from the day he signed his one-year, $5.5 million deal last fall, pending the quality of his recovery this season.
‘‘It’s something we certainly talked about,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘But . . . we’ll see how things go.’’
Wood, who will reach arbitration eligibility after this season, is an
extension candidate, too, although the Cubs haven’t broached the subject yet.
For now, he’s a guy who has gone from having an uncertain future with the Cubs to a core player, a competitive left-hander who seems to have figured it out and a key to making a Garza trade work without destroying the pitching depth.
‘‘It’s helpful, for sure,’’ Hoyer said of Wood’s impact on the depth. ‘‘He’s a great, great athlete on the mound. He’s left-handed, so guys can’t run on him. He can field his position and swing the bat. There’s so many things about him that help you win games. I think he’s certainly a long-term piece for us.’’