There’s no ‘W’ in Chris Volstad, whose skid reaches 24
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com August 19, 2012 9:46PM
Cubs starter Chris Volstad pitched six innings and gave up four runs and seven hits. He wasn’t involved in the decision. | Andy Lyons~Getty Images
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:34AM
CINCINNATI — He has pitched better since his latest stretch in the minors, but Chris Volstad still can’t rid himself of the monster.
A four-single fourth inning that started with a cue-ball infield hit cost Volstad a chance to win Sunday.
The Cubs eventually lost 5-4 to the Reds in the ninth inning, and Volstad’s 13-month winless streak reached 24 starts.
That’s only four short of the major-league record with eight starts left this season, assuming he sticks in the rotation that long.
With other pitchers to evaluate down the stretch, the Cubs have talked about the possibility of replacing Volstad with Class AAA prospect Chris Rusin, who’s expected to make his major-league debut Tuesday, when the Cubs need to add a starter for a day.
Until then, Volstad’s unintentional chase of a dubious mark is a perfect fit for this rebuilding season.
The Cubs are on pace to produce the franchise’s worst record since the 103-loss season in 1966.
For his part, the guy who was acquired from the Marlins in that January attitude dump of Carlos Zambrano has shown progress in four starts since returning from the minors and seems focused on anything but the streak.
‘‘I’m done with that,’’ said Volstad, who pitched six innings with a slider manager Dale Sveum said was his best of the year. ‘‘If you’ve won five in a row, are you going to worry about not winning your next game? Or if you’ve lost five in a row or whatever, are you going to worry about losing [the next one]? Or are you going to go out and compete and try to win each individual time you run out there?
‘‘That’s all I’m doing.’’
Whether it’s enough to keep him from catching Matt Keough (1979) and Jo-Jo Reyes (2008-11) for the big-league record could come down to what the Rockies, Brewers, Nationals and Pirates — or Sveum — do with him over the next three weeks.
He’s 0-14 with a 5.54 ERA since his last win on July 10, 2011.
Meanwhile, at a time the Cubs are locking up young shortstops to $60 million deals and installing first basemen of the future into the lineup, Volstad and his streak are emblematic of how far the front office has to go to build a winning pitching staff.
The Cubs are building around Jeff Samardzija, who still has something to prove, and they’ll have veteran Matt Garza (on the disabled list) back for next year.
But among the rest of the starting pitchers who figure to get a look the rest of the way, Volstad is the only one with even a full year in the big leagues.
Even in the context of just these last few weeks, 30-year-old journeyman Justin Germano deserves a shot to stay in the rotation, Sveum said, as does rookie Brooks Raley after three big-league starts.
Travis Wood, who’s anything but a lock for the long-term picture, nonetheless has a rotation spot locked down for the rest of the season.
And Rusin is all but assured of getting a longer look than Tuesday’s start in Milwaukee.
‘‘If he’s going to get a longer look, he’s going to have to replace somebody,’’ Sveum said of Rusin, ‘‘or go with six guys or something like that in September.’’
Volstad, 25, with a 6-8 classic pitcher’s frame and motion, remains a tantalizing player to project.
But as good as he looks in three- and four-inning stretches, his 6.88 ERA is no aberration. And neither is the fact that he has only three ‘‘quality starts’’ out of 13 this year — and two of those are by the minimum standard.
As a second-year arbitration-eligible pitcher making $2.65 million, the final weeks of this season look especially critical for him to prove his value into the winter.
Even in the short term, ‘‘We’re going to have to decide what we’re going to do,’’ Sveum said before the game. ‘‘The other guys are actually doing a pretty good job. Raley’s done a good job. Germano’s done a great job. So if we decide to [bump Volstad], that’s a whole ’nother story.’’