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Cubs’ young arms have chance to prove they belong on 2013 club

Travis Wood gave Cubs nearly six quality innings Tuesday 2-1 loss Astros. | PSullivan~AP

Travis Wood gave the Cubs nearly six quality innings Tuesday in the 2-1 loss to the Astros. | Pat Sullivan~AP

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The Cubs’ loss combined with the Twins’ victory over the White Sox gave the Cubs the worst record in the majors. If it holds up, they would have the first pick in the draft next year. The race for the top pick:

1. CUBS 15-28 .349

2. Twins 15-27 .357

Rockies 15-27 .357

4. Padres 16-28 .364

5. Brewers 17-26 .395

Updated: July 2, 2012 10:01AM

HOUSTON — Randy Wells got a few chances, and he probably will get a few more. Chris Volstad got eight chances. Travis Wood took another turn Tuesday and looked good enough to warrant a longer look.

Get used to it. That’s what the rest of this season is all about.

Auditions for everyone. Want to be invited to the party of the (second) century being planned for one of these Octobers by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the boys — or at least be part of the 2013 Cubs?

Prove it. Show something. Especially if you’re a starting pitcher. It’s where everything starts for any team.

And for a team at the bottom of the major-league standings — where the Cubs reside after dropping their eighth consecutive game with a 2-1 loss Tuesday to the Houston Astros — it’s the barometer that’ll forecast the promised renaissance and, in the meantime, inform almost every decision the front office makes toward that end.

‘‘We’re going to need more starting pitching,’’ pitching coach Chris Bosio said. ‘‘We’re going to need more bullpen.’’

The bullpen will wait. The new regime assured that much by depleting it with its first few moves, including the trade of Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds that got them Wood in return.

Wood showed something in 52/3 effective innings, especially after the Astros’ first two batters produced a home run and a ground-rule double. He allowed only two baserunners the rest of the way, including a two-out walk in the sixth that turned into the winning run after Shawn Camp took over.


‘‘I don’t like to think about it like that,’’ said Wood, who tried to make a case for a lineup that hasn’t scored enough to give the Cubs a lead since last Wednesday and a bullpen that had trouble holding the few it got before that.

Like it or not, it’s all about how long it will take the front office to get the Cubs back into contending shape. Like it or not, the way this season has started, the No. 1 draft pick in 2013 looks a lot more valuable — and feasible — than a respectable season.

One thing Wood can agree on: ‘‘Starting pitching’s always the key.’’

The Cubs think they have a couple of front-line guys in Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija and a reliable innings-eating lefty in Paul Maholm. And maybe Ryan Dempster will be back.

Beyond that, they have plenty of other guys to make starts. But how many of them fit the picture Epstein and Hoyer have in mind is questionable at best.

‘‘We’ve got some guys here that have made big strides,’’ Bosio said. ‘‘We’ve got some other guys here that I think are on the verge of taking the next step. But it’s hard when you’ve got some of these guys that are in the bullpen that are learning on the job.’’

Assuming the pen can be bolstered when the time and need come, how much starting pitching do the Cubs have now? How much do they need to become seriously competitive?

‘‘Another big arm would be wonderful to have,’’ Bosio said. ‘‘But we also need depth. If we can’t get the big arm, we need depth.

‘‘When you go into a short series, it’s always great to have two [big arms]. Some World Series clubs, when you think about Arizona with [Curt] Schilling and [Randy] Johnson], you’re talking about two of the elite pitchers in the game. And it seems to always go down to that last out of the seventh game.

‘‘The other teams that have had three or go four deep [in big arms] are usually the ones that kind of get through the 4-1 series.

‘‘I’m a realist. I think we all just want a fighting chance. I think we’ve got a bunch of fighters, but at the same time . . . right now we have what we have.

‘‘The pitchers know where I stand. We have to be better. We have to be better right now, with this team. And we’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.’’

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