Rotation’s work has been first-month bright spot for Cubs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org April 27, 2013 11:33PM
The facts: 12:10 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
The pitchers: Carlos Villanueva (1-0, 1.53 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 3.81).
Updated: May 30, 2013 2:53PM
MIAMI — All the updates on Matt Garza’s rehab progress the last few days sound upbeat and positive, suggesting the power-pitching right-hander could return from the disabled list by the end of May.
Yeah, and then what?
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” manager Dale Sveum said.
The rotation has been the Cubs’ only consistent strength over the first month, producing a 3.02 ERA that ranks second in the National League to the St. Louis Cardinals (2.08).
“Everybody’s making a claim for themselves to stay here and pitch,” said left-hander Travis Wood, who is 5-for-5 in quality starts with a 2.25 ERA after another strong six innings in Saturday’s 3-2 victory against the Miami Marlins — the Cubs’ third win in a row and fourth in five games.
“That’s what you expect out of them. We’ll just see what happens and make them make the decision, and don’t make it for yourself.”
Even struggling Scott Feldman has found success his last two starts. When he pitched into the seventh on Friday for his first quality start, it became part of the six-start streak the rotation takes into Sunday.
Only three teams have more than the Cubs’ 15 quality starts.
“When a guy’s ready to go and he’s pitching the way Garza can pitch, it’s a pretty nice problem to have,” Sveum said, adding the shape of the bullpen could come into play.
“There’s all kinds of different equations you could bring up for who would have to leave the rotation,” he said. “But we’ll just have to wait and see. Usually things like that take care of themselves in those situations, but it’s always a nice problem to have, to have five starters throwing real well, and then a guy like Garza coming back.”
Pen is mightier
Despite Kevin Gregg’s back-to-back 1-2-3 ninth innings for saves Friday and Saturday, Sveum is sticking with a no-closer policy until further notice.
“Everybody seems to be pitching great when they don’t know when they’re coming in,” Sveum said with a laugh.
In fact, a bullpen that was the weak link the first two weeks is on a 10-game roll after four relievers combined Saturday for three scoreless innings. The pen has a 1.03 ERA and five saves in that stretch.
“The bullpen’s just been unbelievable on this whole road trip,” said Sveum, whose team has a chance to salvage a .500 road trip if it wins Sunday.
One of the few mistakes Wood made was hit so far by Mike Stanton in the first inning it would have gone out of some ballparks — clearing the left-field scoreboard for a solo shot the Marlins said went 472 feet.
“I think they’re a little short,” Sveum said.
Said Wood: “Normally I don’t like watching them. But as soon as he hit it, I said, ‘That one’s going to go way back.’ So I watched that one.”