Nov 4, 2009, 5:55 PM EDT
Given all of the indications that the team had no plans to offer free agent Rich Harden arbitration this winter, the Cubs must have been feeling confident about their 2010 rotation. Big-money pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster were set to lead the way, with rookie surprise Randy Wells and summer acquisition Tom Gorzelanny likely to follow. Maybe the Cubs would take a chance on a rehabbing veteran, but they felt their rotation was set.
Alas, plans have already gone awry with the news Wednesday that Lilly underwent shoulder surgery and was questionable for the start of the season. No major damage was found, but pitchers don’t recover from shoulder scopes quickly. If the Cubs had him back at 100 percent by May 1, they’d undoubtedly be thrilled.
Of course, the Cubs should be able hold down the fort until then, perhaps with Sean Marshall. But it’s not like Lilly’s injury will be the only one they have to deal with. The typically durable Zambrano spent time on the DL this year, and Gorzelanny has dealt with his share of elbow issues. Wells was a revelation in 2009, but he didn’t show the kind of strikeout rate that suggests he’ll be anything more than a fourth or fifth starter going forward.
Fortunately, there will be plenty of guys worth taking chances on this winter. Rehabbing pitchers like Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer and Kelvim Escobar will be available at varying levels of cost. Injury-prone starters such as Pedro Martinez, Carl Pavano and John Smoltz could at least bridge the gap until Lilly returns and contribute off an on throughout. There will also be arms with less upside, like Jose Contreras, Braden Looper (probably) and Jeff Weaver.
The Cubs could have chosen to get by without any of them and used the savings to aid the rest of the team. However, that wouldn’t necessarily have been the smart strategy even before the Lilly news. Marshall is important in the pen, and there’s no telling what Jeff Samardzija will provide. The Cubs needed more starting pitching depth either way.
- Kevin Youkilis opts for retirement at age 35 27
- 10 nominees for Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee announced 94
- Bochy’s championship resume ranks among game’s best 17
- Alex Gordon would have been a dead duck had he tried to score 80
- Video: Pablo Sandoval catches final out in foul territory, Giants win 2014 World Series 10
- Madison Bumgarner pitches the Giants to their third World Series win in five seasons 93
- Madison Bumgarner named World Series MVP … obviously 21
- Pablo Sandoval sets new postseason hits record 10
- A veteran says enough is enough when it comes to tributes for the soldiers (280)
- Jose Canseco shot his middle finger off (148)
- Shocker! Joe Maddon to opt out of his contract and leave the Rays (142)
- Oscar Taveras dies after car accident in the Dominican Republic (140)
- 10-0! The Royals romp, tie it up at three games a piece (109)