12/10 Pitching, pitching, pitching

The Cubs used nine different starting pitchers last season, including Scott Baker who started three games in September, and want to make sure they have enough depth. GM Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the goal is to add at least one and possibly two more starting pitchers before the season begins. So far, the rotation includes Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta with Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva possibly getting starts. The Cubs have had talks with Baker’s agent about the possibility of the right-hander returning for another season. Baker spent most of the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Whether that extra pitcher is Masahiro Tanaka has not been determined as Major League Baseball and the Japan baseball officials sort through the posting process.

“In general, we only need one starter in theory,” Hoyer said, “but we know we’ll go through a lot more starters. We’re in on a lot of starting pitchers and we could well sign more than one starter. That’s a possibility. Someone is going to be hurt, someone could go to the bullpen for a short amount of time. I feel it’s a dangerous game playing that ‘just enough’ starting pitcher game. Could we add more than one starting pitcher this winter? Absolutely.”

On Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, Hoyer and Theo Epstein continued their meetings with agents and teams.

“I think we’ve laid the groundwork and we’ll keep doing that,” Hoyer said. “It’s boring to say but that’s what you do here. You have meeting after meeting and try to kick ideas off each other. You hope that having the big group here and having everyone in the same building will lead to a little more creativity.”

* The Cubs may go to Spring Training and let the relievers battle it out for the closer’s job.

“In theory we can,” Hoyer said. “I think we have people on the roster who can certainly hold down that job. At that point, it would be on [manager Rick Renteria] to name a closer in Spring Training. I’m not sure that will happen or not. I think we have more power arms on the roster and we feel better about our bullpen. We do still want to add to it.”

The list of candidates includes Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon. However, the Cubs are looking at adding some relievers, and hoping the chance to be a closer could entice some free agents.

Renteria did admit that managing the bullpen is the “most critical part of the ballgame.” He’d like to have roles established for each pitcher.

* Kyuji Fujikawa is continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery but most likely would not be back until May at the earliest.

— Carrie Muskat


Alberto Cabrera has to step up this season as a starter……………look for Neil Ramirez, Kyle Hendricks and Pierce Johnson to be pitching games at Wrigley by August……….Arodys Vizcaino might be in the bull pen before he can go to the starting position……..

Our starting pitching staff will look different by the end of the 2014 season.

I don’t think Alberto Cabrera currently projects to crack the starting rotation. As it stands now, the starting five are Samardzija, Wood, Jackson, Arietta, and Rusin or Villanueva. Any free agent starter signing would bump Villanueva to the bullpen and Rusin back to AAA. Trading Samardzija could possibly open up a spot, but we’ll talk about that when/if the time comes. While the Cubs started Cabrera as a starter at AA last year, he switched to the bullpen when promoted to AAA and stayed there during his September callup. I think his fastest way to the majors again is through the bullpen, not the starting rotation. As for the rest you mention, Ramirez and Hendricks might get a look this spring, but both are probably starting the year at Iowa. Again, it would depend on any trades or injuries that would happen between now and the deadline, but I could see either one getting a shot if the opportunity presents itself during the season. Pierce Johnson might be a little bit further away, as he will probably start the season in AA. I can see the Cubs mimicking what they did with Hendricks last year: pitch most of the season at Tennessee, August promotion to Iowa, shut him down at the end of the minor league season and look to 2015 as the year he makes his debut. Vizcaino might have a shot at the bullpen this season. Given his injury history, they’d probably be a little cautious with stretching his arm out to be a starter.

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