Pitching for the Cubs these days has been a thankless job. They’ve got two starters and four relievers remaining from the Opening Day roster, albeit one of those starters is running a 24-game losing streak and the bullpen has been somewhat of a revolving door. On top of that, Cubs pitchers usually can’t expect to get much run support. Though while that’s an issue now, it may not be in the future, with the expected lineup of youngsters including Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo leading the way.
But according to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, this season, the Cubs have gone through nine rookie pitchers – the most in the National League. And while this statistic may be frightening to some, it’s not so worrisome when you consider the state the Cubs are in. Everyone from here to the Moon knows the Cubs are in “rebuilding mode,” so it makes sense that they want to give rookie pitchers a chance to get some major league experience. The hard part is sifting through all the muck that is the Cubs 2012 season.
Rookies Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin each got a chance to start. While Raley’s major league debut with the Cubs didn’t go quite so smoothly, he has improved steadily through his three starts. He earned his first win on Saturday, giving up five hits on four runs (three earned) and striking out four. And even with a 4-8 record at Triple-A Iowa, he posted 69 strikeouts and maintained a 3.62 ERA. Raley has shown that he can hang with the big kids, and if he keeps improving we should be seeing more of him.
Rusin made his first start Tuesday, and though it ended in a loss, he had some bright spots. He only allowed one hit (which deflected off of him) and one run, and struck out four. In Iowa, Rusin went 8-8 with a 4.59 ERA and 87 strikeouts. These guys seem promising, but they need to get some more big-league experience before we draw any conclusions.
The key prospect in the Paul Maholm/Reed Johnson trade with the Braves, Arodys Vizcaino, is out right now after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring. It says a lot that the Cubs were willing to take a chance on an injured player, but the powers that be believe it will pay off. Since 2008, his ERA has never risen above 4.67, his most recent number from his stint with the Braves last season. During that time Vizcaino doled out 17 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings, along with nine walks and nine earned runs. While he has solid command, it seems as though he would be better suited in a relieving or closing role, as he’s had success there in the past.
Yesterday, the Cubs picked up pitcher Miguel Socolovich off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. Socolovich made six appearances this season with the Orioles, going 10 1/3 innings and striking out six, which left his ERA at 6.97. He fared better at the Orioles’ Triple-A Norfolk, where he made 28 relief appearances with a 1.90 ERA. However, it doesn’t look like he’ll be making waves anytime soon.
Reliever Jeff Beliveau was recently sent back to Iowa after pitching 11 1/3 innings for the Cubs. Last year, the Cubs named Beliveau their Minor League Pitcher of the Year after he went 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA. His numbers fell a bit when he was called up, which is understandable, but he also showed some promise, allowing only two home runs (in the same inning) throughout his time in Chicago. He pitched nine scoreless innings, struck out nine and gave up eight hits. While he was optioned to Iowa to make room for Rusin and Alex Hinshaw, I think Beliveau had some encouraging outings and could become a more permanent part of the bullpen in the future.
Going forward, the Cubs have made it clear that their top priority is to get solid pitchers. And while Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn’t necessarily impress anyone at the trade deadline with their moves, the addition of Vizcaino was a start. He could be a dominant force if he returns to full strength. Also, Raley and Beliveau have shown promise in their relative consistency, and I think both pitchers could have success if they get more experience. The key for the Cubs right now is to give their young guys chances to improve, because really, what have they got to lose?
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