Cubs roster likely to come into focus Tuesday
By Gordon Wittenmyer firstname.lastname@example.org March 21, 2011 11:17PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
TEMPE, Ariz. — Cubs pitcher Carlos Silva was looking for a rabbit’s foot after his most recent poor outing last week.
He might find out today whether he got it Monday in the form of terrible pitching conditions that a windy, rainy afternoon created for rotation rival Andrew Cashner in what might have been a final audition for a starting job.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, manager Mike Quade and key members of their staffs meet this morning to discuss the Opening Day roster.
‘‘The conversation covers every-body’s role on this club,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Who’s still alive to make this club, who’s not, where we see the depth, the rankings from the pitching through the bullpen, the whole club. . . . I would think the picture would be a lot clearer by Wednesday morning, after we’ve had a chance to digest and figure out what we’re doing.’’
Silva, who has one year left on his contract at $11.5 million, isn’t scheduled to start again until Wednesday in a best-case scenario for him — and Quade wasn’t even committed to whether that would be in a big-league game or in minor-league camp, with Carlos Zambrano scheduled to start the same day.
Meanwhile, Cashner, the prized second-year pitcher the Cubs want to groom into an ace, didn’t need a perfect spring to win a starting job. And he clearly has outperformed Silva with just a week left before the team breaks camp.
But thanks in part to a weather-abbreviated, three-inning start against the Los Angeles Angels, Cashner has yet to pitch more than four innings in a game. Even Silva has a five-inning start.
‘‘It’s not my decision, but I thought I competed really well today,’’ said Cashner, who threw roughly 60 pitches in a sloppy, damage-control-style start. ‘‘I thought I’ve thrown the ball well this whole spring, and whatever decision they come up with, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve given it my best shot. I could have pitched better, but I thought I pitched well enough. We’ll see what happens.’’
Cashner will make the opening roster either way after a strong rookie finish in a setup role. But nobody has said a discouraging word about the lanky Texas kid’s starting ability.
‘‘There’s so much I like about his poise, his calmness,’’ Quade said even before Cashner pitched out of an especially tough jam in the third Monday. ‘‘The stuff is there, and delivering the stuff consistently with command, improving on the breaking ball — just literally using three pitches and using them effectively is going to be huge for him [in the transition from a two-pitch reliever].’’
Besides the starting rotation, look for at least a few other roster areas to start gaining clarity out of the meeting:
◆ Fifth outfielder. Barring an injury, non-roster veteran Reed Johnson is in, with Fernando Perez’s tough spring both at the plate and in the field trending toward Iowa.
◆ Utility infielder. Rookie Darwin Barney’s huge spring — he made a run-saving play at second base to end the third, diving to his left for a grounder Monday — has him on the roster, especially with non-roster vet Augie Ojeda sidelined with back pain. What’s more, ‘‘Barney’s not automatically a utility guy,’’ Quade said, putting him squarely in the starting mix at second, with Jeff Baker.
◆ Second base. Don’t assume lefty hitting Blake DeWitt (.163, issues in the field, including turning the double play) breaks camp with the team, with non-roster guys Bobby Scales (a switch-hitter) and Scott Moore (lefty) looking better all spring.
‘‘There’s no way in the world that I would rule guys out automatically that are having the kind of springs those two kids are having,’’ said Quade, who likes the ability of both to turn a double play and the versatility of both.
So does DeWitt have a spot on the opening roster? ‘‘Right now he does, but there’s some guys pushing. And we ain’t left [camp] yet.’’
Roster spots could come into play on that decision. The Cubs have one opening on their 40-man roster, which for now looks like Johnson’s.
Adding either Scales or Moore — or pitching candidate Braden Looper — to Johnson would require outrighting a prospect or moving a veteran such as Silva.
‘‘We have decisions to make,’’ Quade said.