Sean Marshall could be Cubs’ lone All-Star
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 9, 2011 11:24PM
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro cools down in the dugout Thursday in Philadelphia. | H. Rumph Jr~AP
Updated: August 3, 2011 6:29PM
PHILADELPHIA — Is there an All-Star in the house?
The way the Cubs have been going, the answer would seem obvious and resounding.
But the rules say they have to have one — probably the mandatory one for a third consecutive season — and the way the selection process has leaned in recent years, the most likely candidate might be one of the most understated, under-the-radar and most valuable players on the team:
Setup man Sean Marshall.
‘‘I wouldn’t take anybody ahead of him right now off the top of my head in either league, to be honest with you, for what he does for us,’’ manager Mike Quade said.
It could be one of the rare highlights of the summer for the struggling Cubs and a chance to underscore a rare position area of strength — recent blown saves by Carlos Marmol aside.
With about three weeks until the rosters are selected for the July 12 game, the Cubs have two young middle infielders who could play their way into consideration, and shortstop Starlin Castro pointed out that June and July are historically his best months as a pro.
‘‘I’ve started slow in June, but today is another day,’’ Castro said. ‘‘I’ll be here. I have to keep working and do my job first.’’
Late-inning guys Marmol and Kerry Wood could get consideration, too.
But nobody has been more consistent and more dominant in his job for this team, even going back to last year, than Marshall.
He’s a converted lefty starter with a high strikeout total, a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.03 ERA. Marshall is almost as effective against righties as lefties.
‘‘I haven’t thought about it too much,’’ he said. ‘‘Overall, I’m more concerned with this team and winning some games. It would definitely be cool, but I’m not too concerned about it.’’
With more emphasis on winning the All-Star Game since the infamous 2002 tie, and its fallout, dominant setup men have gained increasing favor in the selection process. Marmol made it in 2008 as a setup man, as did White Sox lefty Matt Thornton last year.
‘‘I don’t know numbers specifically in the National League, but I haven’t personally seen anybody I’d rather have in that role,’’ Quade said.
A day after battling a right hip strain to beat Cincinnati, right-hander Ryan Dempster did all his scheduled running Thursday and said the hip was fine. ‘‘No concerns,’’ he said. Quade said the training staff expects no problems in Dempster making his next scheduled start.
◆ Andrew Cashner (strained rotator cuff) still hasn’t begun a throwing program since suffering a setback in his rehab work three weeks ago. The Cubs say they’re doubling the time and effort they’re taking with each step of the process this time through. That likely pushes a possible return from the DL to at least the end of July.
◆ Help on the way? The Cubs’ Class AA affiliate in Tennessee earned a franchise-record 12 Southern League All-Star selections. Not sure what it says that one of them, DJ LeMahieu, is on the Cubs’ bench.