Chicago Cubs: rotation

Cubs alter rotation to give Wood extra rest

June, 1, 2013
6/01/13
5:56
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have changed their rotation slots for the upcoming week.

Due to a higher pitch count than usual this season, Travis Wood will flip flop with Matt Garza in next week’s rotation. Garza will pitch in Anaheim against the Angels on Thursday while Wood will have seven days of rest and face Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field on Friday.

(Wood) has pitched a lot of innings already and has thrown a lot of pitches in those games,” said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. “He has had a lot of stressful innings too. We just want to give him a few extra days.”

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Feldman's string of strong starts continues

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
11:44
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have not had much to brag about through the first 32 games of the season, but excellent starting pitching has been one major area to be proud of for this rebuilding franchise.

Chicago carried a 3.30 ERA by the rotation pitchers into Monday’s makeup game against the Texas Rangers, which the Cubs won 9-2. Scott Feldman helped lower that ERA with another strong performance in a start which had special meaning coming against his former team.

“I tried to relax out there and everything but obviously I know a lot of those guys,” Feldman said. “I have a lot of respect for them and I had a great seven or eight years over there while I made some good friends. When we aren’t playing against them, I want them to do good. A night like tonight I definitely wanted to get them out.”

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Garza happy after solid rehab start

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
7:32
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza made his third minor league rehab start Monday in Des Moines, Iowa, lasting into the fourth inning and throwing 54 pitches.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum talked to Garza, who is working to come back from a strained lat muscle, after his start.

“I talked to him on the phone and he was really pumped up,” Sveum said. “Everything went really well. The hits (allowed ) were bloopers or a bunt hit. He was pretty efficient and threw all his pitches 100 percent. His slider was up to 87 mph. He was getting after it a little bit today.”

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Cubs' early rotation an unproven bunch

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
8:12
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs will start the 2013 season with a rotation that does not have a pitcher with a winning lifetime record.

In fact, with Matt Garza and Scott Baker out for at least the first month, the starters all have career ERAs that are north of 4.00.

But the projection for this staff is not all doom and gloom. Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood appear to be just coming into their own as middle-to-top-of-the-rotation starters. Pitching coach Chris Bosio has imparted some mechanical magic and pitching logic to both young hurlers. Carlos Villanueva, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson will fill out the early rotation, all joining the team as free agents this offseason.

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Rotation looks shakier than once thought

March, 17, 2013
3/17/13
6:02
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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PHOENIX -- What initially looked like a deep, if not spectacular, starting rotation for the Chicago Cubs appears questionable at best with two weeks left until opening day.

Freak injuries and slow starts for some of the staff have depleted a once-decent inventory of starters that the Cubs front office put together during the winter. Plan A had newcomers Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva joining a returning core group led by Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Matt Garza.

Certainly it was reasonable to assume that Baker and Garza might take longer to find their grooves this spring. Both pitchers were coming off of elbow problems -- in Baker’s case, ligament replacement surgery and in Garza’s, extensive elbow rehab.

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Jeff Samardzija poised for another rise

February, 10, 2013
2/10/13
1:37
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Jeff SamardzijaDaniel Shirey/US PresswireJeff Samardzija made big strides in 2012 in his first season in the Cubs rotation.


MESA, Ariz. -- Could Jeff Samardzija be on the cusp of becoming a top-of-the-rotation force for the Chicago Cubs?

Many major league scouts see big things ahead for Samardzija, who reported to spring training many weeks ahead of his teammates to prepare for what he believes will be a breakout season for him.

“Jeff looks a little better than he did last year when he reported for camp,” Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “The solid year he had last season, learning how to set up hitters and learning how to change speeds, has carried over. He is great shape. After running an hour and a half up Camelback Mountain (Tuesday) he threw a solid 30-pitch bullpen. He is in a pretty good place right now.”

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In Giants, Cubs see latest blueprint

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
12:05
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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If a "foundation for sustained success" is what Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein wants to build, he knows where to look for the latest and trendiest model.

The San Francisco Giants just won their second World Series title in three seasons and the most recent one, wrapped up Sunday night with a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, showed that titles aren't necessarily won by the organization that stockpiles the most superstars.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Rizzo
David Banks/Getty ImagesAnthony Rizzo gives the Cubs one key building block in trying to replicate the Giants' blueprint, but Chicago's pitching has a long way to go.
Where the Cubs stand the best chance of emulating the Giants is by packaging fundamentally sound players around a talented nucleus.

Buster Posey is the only superstar of the Giants' starting lineup, although Pablo Sandoval played like one in the World Series. The Giants stretched Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence across the outfield ... hardly an intimidating trio.

They won with Brandon Crawford playing shortstop, Brandon Belt at first base and Marco Scutaro playing out of his mind in the postseason at second base.

If the Cubs can solve their problem at third base, they already have a young core ready to develop out of the infield in shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Add defensive wiz Darwin Barney into the mix from second base and the Cubs have a solid base moving forward.

Where the Cubs' young group is lacking when compared to the champion Giants is in a selfless, disciplined approach at the plate. Rizzo showed he is the most adept at the strategy, driving balls when he can and taking pitches to the opposite field when the opportunity arises.

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Epstein outlines Cubs' offseason plan

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
3:28
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Now that the Chicago Cubs have settled on a coaching staff for 2013, attention will turn to filling out a roster.

[+] EnlargeTheo Epstein
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTheo Epstein listed two starters on his wish list this offseason.
Big-ticket free agents aren’t on the top of the Cubs’ wish list just yet, but club president Theo Epstein does have some ideas on how he and general manager Jed Hoyer will fill in the roster gaps this winter.

First and foremost, Epstein confirmed that the Cubs are looking to add at least two starting pitchers. But there are also plans to add to the rotation internally.

At third base, where the Cubs received little-to-no production this past season, the club could be willing to give Ian Stewart another chance, provided he no longer has health concerns stemming from a chronic sore wrist.

And in the outfield, the Cubs are focused on adding either a center fielder or a right fielder and depending on what they land, David DeJesus will take over the remaining position. Tony Campana still needs to show considerable improvement offensively to be considered an Opening Day center field candidate.

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Cubs 2012 recaps: Starting pitching

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
12:03
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Ryan DempsterMike Stobe/Getty ImagesRyan Dempster was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, posting a 2.25 ERA over 16 starts.
With the 2012 season finally over, Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position this week, beginning with the starting pitchers.

CHICAGO -- For one month, anyway, the Chicago Cubs had their act together and it was the starting pitching that led the way.

The season might have ended with 101 defeats, but the month of July wasn’t to blame as the Cubs posted a 15-10 record.

That things went south again once Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm were traded before the July 31 non-waiver deadline -- not to mention the season-ending injury to Matt Garza -- came as no surprise.

Overall, though, it was a rough ride as the Cubs starters combined for a 4.52 ERA, 14th best in the 16-team National League. Their 42 wins were 15th in the league.

[+] EnlargeGarza
Howard Smith/US PresswireMatt Garza's season came to an early end after he suffered an elbow injury in late July.
“We made the tough decision to invest a little more in the future at that time,” president Theo Epstein said of the trade deadline. “It’s never easy to do that, but to be honest, that fit the greater vision of the organization. Had we found ourselves in contention, or close to it, we wouldn’t have done that. But the fact is that we weren’t close to contention and so we ended up trading 40 percent of our rotation -- not something you want to do if you want to win a lot of games the rest of the year.”

In the end things went as expected for the starting staff, with the only exception being that Garza is still a member of the Cubs organization. He figured to be dealt before the end of the season, but his elbow injury July 21 in an outing against the Cardinals nixed those plans and ended his year.

Garza finished the season with a 3.91 ERA over 18 starts and held opponents to a .236 batting average.

Dempster lifted his trade value with a 2.25 ERA over 16 starts, but things didn’t work out exactly as the club had planned when the right-hander vetoed a trade to the Atlanta Braves. Dempster earned his veto power as a 10-year veteran with at least five years with the same club. Instead of the Cubs landing major-league-ready pitcher Randall Delgado from the Braves, they ended up ended up with a pair of Single-A players from the Texas Rangers --third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

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Record not highlight for new Cubs pitcher

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
5:29
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- There is nothing like tying a major-league record in your second career start with a new team.

[+] EnlargeJason Berken
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJason Berken pitched six shutout innings against the Reds on Thursday.
For new Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Berken, though, the record was so obscure it almost went unnoticed.

The right-hander, who was acquired off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month, matched a major league mark when he struck out four batters in the second inning.

He started the top of the second with a strikeout of Denis Phipps before moving on to strike out Ryan Hanigan. But because of a wild pitch on the third strike, Hanigan was able to reach first base. Berken then rebounded by striking out Didi Gregorious and fellow pitcher Johnny Cueto.

“Honestly I didn’t realize it until I sat back down in the dugout,” Berken said. “It was cool, I guess. By no means am I going for strikeouts. For me it’s important to force the early contact and have the ability to pitch deep in the game. But in that inning I threw some good sliders and got ahead in the count. I got the strikeouts, but I’m not going to get used to that.”

Berken is now the fifth Cubs pitcher ever to strike out four in an inning. The last to do it was Ryan Dempster on the last day of the 2009 season against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kerry Wood (2002), Bill Bonham (1974) and Jim David (1956) also did it.

What was more important to Berken moving forward was the fact that he gave up just two hits over six scoreless innings. Any impression he can make over the final month will be key for him moving into next season.

“It was one start, but it’s important for me to build off this and put together another one after this,” said Berken, who is lined up to make two more outings before the end of the season. “There is always something to prove. I’m never comfortable and will never assume something. For me it’s a matter of stringing together a couple of more good starts and go into the offseason on a positive note.”

Despite the fact that he was with the contending Orioles just a month ago and is now with the rebuilding Cubs, Berken only sees the positives.

“I’m extremely happy for those guys and have a lot of good friends on that team,” Berken said. “It’s a great city and a great organization. I don’t think anybody over there is surprised, including myself.

“But like I said, I am very happy to be here and this opportunity for me is not something I take lightly. I want to take advantage of it and I’m thrilled to be a Cub. It means a lot to be here and the opportunity I’m getting is appreciated.”

Cubs' Wood making a case for 2013 rotation

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
11:17
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Travis Wood apparently intends on using the final month to announce that he’s taking a rotation spot to open the 2013 season for the Chicago Cubs.

[+] EnlargeTravis Wood
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireTravis Wood gave up one earned run in 7 2/3 innings against the Astros on Wednesday.
After an eight-decision losing streak that wasn’t all his fault, Wood has shown resiliency by allowing just one run over his last two starts.

He actually held the Astros scoreless Wednesday night before he gave up a double in the eighth inning and was removed from the game. Shawn Camp then gave up an RBI single with the run charged to Wood.

It certainly seems like Wood is an all-or-nothing pitcher. He was hit hard in the spring, improved at Triple-A Iowa and when he finally made it to the Cubs, he went on an impressive four-start run where he won each game and gave up only three combined runs.

Immediately after that came the eight losses, with the Cubs actually losing all 10 games he pitched in that stretch. Wood wasn’t as bad as the won-loss meter might have suggested. He gave up three runs or less in six of those 10 starts and two runs or less in four of them.

The Cubs aren’t expected to spend big money for pitching on the free-agent market this offseason but are expected to add just like they did last winter. That’s when they brought aboard not only Paul Maholm as a free agent, but traded for Wood.

So how many starters will they add this offseason to the battle for rotation spots?

“There (are) obviously some pieces that we have to put together and the more competition and the more you have the better off you’re going to be,” manager Dale Sveum said this weekend.

Well if two, or even three new starters come aboard, Wood would be wise to start making his case for a starting spot now and that is exactly what he has done.

The Cubs are looking at Jeff Samardzija and Matt Garza atop the rotation with Wood in the mix as well. The left-hander figures to get four more starts to state his case.

If Wood and his 6-11 record don’t sound thrilling, perhaps it’s best to look at a different number. Despite his recent losing streak, Wood has actually posted a 3.20 ERA since Aug. 1.

Samardzija proves himself as a starter

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
10:23
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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PITTSBURGH -- Just because Jeff Samardzija's season was being cut short, it didn’t mean his final outing would be as well.

Allowed to extend to the 120-pitch mark, Samardzija made it count with the first complete game of his career and the first one from a Chicago Cubs pitcher this season.

“That was a special night for him and the team to win two in a row after what just happened in Washington,” manager Dale Sveum said after the 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “It was big for him to be that so-called No. 1 guy to step up and give us back-to-back wins for the first time on the road in I don’t know how long.”

[+] EnlargeJeff Samardzija
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesCubs starter Jeff Samardzija threw his first complete game in his last outing of the season.
It was the first time since the last time the Cubs were in Pittsburgh in late June and Samardzija had a victory in one of those games too.

There were only nine victories total this season for the right-hander, a number that could have been higher with better luck and more run support. But Samardzija was only looking at the positives when he thought of his long road from fighting for a rotation spot in the spring to posting a 3.81 ERA in 174 2/3 innings this season.

“It feels great,” Samardzija said. “I remember telling myself when I went out for the ninth inning, just looking back at everything that has happened over the past few years and how much I put pressure on myself for this season. I asked to be a starter and I wanted to go from tape to tape and prove that I can be the guy they needed me to be.”

Samardzija will stick around for the final month but he is under strict orders to not throw any more pitches, meaning there won’t even be any more side sessions. He won’t be getting a completely free ride, though, as Sveum said he still might use Samardzija as a pinch runner down the stretch.

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Cubs give chance to ... gulp ... a Packers fan

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
6:03
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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PITTSBURGH -- The newest Chicago Cubs pitcher is excited for his opportunity in Chicago while admitting that he will be somewhat of a fish out of water.

Jason Berken, who will take over Jeff Samardzija's spot in the rotation beginning with a start next Saturday, is not only a Green Bay native, but an actual Packers season ticket holder.

[+] EnlargeJason Berken
G Fiume/Getty ImagesJason Berken is glad to get a chance with the Cubs.
“I came to the NFC championship a few years ago, I was (in Chicago) for it,” Berken said of the Packers’ 21-14 victory over the Bears to advance to the Super Bowl. “It was a pretty awesome experience. Unfortunately I’m pretty die-hard.”

Just how die-hard? Berken’s tickets are on the 50-yard line and the season-ticket account has been passed along through four different family members among three different generations going back to the late 1960s.

The tickets were first owned by his great aunt, passed along to his grandfather and then to his mother before Berken took them over last season.

He actually resides full time in Atlanta, but comes back to Green Bay a few times each winter to see games. The tickets he doesn’t use go to other family members.

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Cubs give open rotation spot to Berken

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
8:44
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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PITTSBURGH – With Jeff Samardzja now shut down for the season, Jason Berken will take his spot in the rotation the rest of the season.

Haven’t heard of Berken? The Cubs claimed him off waivers Friday from the Baltimore Orioles and the right-hander could be in Pittsburgh as early as Saturday.

To make room on the 40-man roster, Blake Parker was put on the 60-day disabled list with a reoccurrence of discomfort from an earlier bone contusion.

Berken pitched in just one major-league inning this season, but is 10-17 over the past four seasons with the Orioles and has a 5.5.40 ERA in 106 outings and 24 starts. At Triple-A Norfolk this season, Berken was 5-6 with a 3.50 ERA over 26 starts.

The Cubs starting rotation now consists of Travis Wood, Chris Rusin, Chris Volstad, Justin Germano and Berken.

Samardzija, in his first season as a starter, will make one last start Saturday at Pittsburgh and then be shut down for the season as a precaution.

All that pitching catches Cubs in a bind

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
6:51
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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WASHINGTON -- If you think the Chicago Cubs have used a lot of pitchers this year, just try to be the guys in charge of keeping all their pitches straight.

[+] EnlargeWelington Castillo
Brad Mills/US PresswireWelington Castillo and fellow catcher Steve Clevenger have had to get to know a lot of new pitchers this season.
Cubs catchers rookie Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo have had their hands full just learning life in the big leagues. Now there is the revolving door on the mound providing possibly the biggest test of all.

The Cubs have used 29 pitchers in 2012 crushing the previous high of 25 pitchers used in a single season. Two more pitchers -- Jaye Chapman and Miguel Socolovich -- made their season debuts Tuesday.

“I think they have done a good job and are getting better at it,” manager Dale Sveum said. “(Castillo) has made huge strides in the last month in calling games and sticking to gameplans, as well as Clevenger who has been pretty good all year with it. It’s new to them.”

Counting Wednesday night’s game, Castillo and Clevenger have combined to see 90 games of action this season.

“This kind of grind, this kind of pressure of calling a game at the big league level isn’t the easiest thing and they have been thrown into the fire the last few months,” Sveum said.

Clevenger said the hard part is serving as pitch caller and prime motivator for so many different faces. But he downplayed the difficulty of keeping it all in order.

“As long as you get together before the game during batting practice, talk and see what they like to do, we’re going to go with their strengths,” Clevenger said. “You’re going to pitch to their strengths and not get away from them.”

Those get-to-know-you chats are all on the pitchers and catchers. There isn’t a set time during the day to go over that part of the game plan together so it’s incumbent on the battery to get together often.

“These are the guys we’re going to go with for the rest of the year so the more comfortable I can make them, the more comfortable they are throwing to me, the better off we are,” Clevenger said. “It’s getting together and being prepared going into the game and not doing it when we’re in the game.”

Adding to the challenge is that the Cubs have eight rookie pitchers on the roster, seven of whom pitched in Tuesday night’s game.

“There is no question that the more bodies you have the more issues you can have with the catchers not knowing what they throw, not knowing their velocities, not knowing their out pitches, how good their out pitch is,” Sveum said. “It might be an OK out pitch in Triple-A but it doesn’t play here. So yeah it brings up a lot of issues to have to get to know people and know how they handle situations and all that. It’s trying in a lot of ways to go through that many pitchers.”

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.98 104 108
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Rizzo .281
HRA. Rizzo 23
RBIA. Rizzo 53
RA. Rizzo 65
OPSA. Rizzo .907
ERAJ. Samardzija 2.83
SOJ. Hammel 104