CHICAGO -- Casey Coleman is aware that every good start he makes brings him a step closer to locking up a spot in the Chicago Cubs' 2012 rotation. However, he also knows that he can’t look too far into the future and take his focus off the task at hand.
“You’re always pitching for your job, no matter how old you are,” Coleman said. “You don’t always want to be in Triple-A or the minor leagues. Take it start by start, that’s what I’ve had to do, and not get too far ahead of myself.”
Coleman’s solid six innings -- giving up only one earned run -- in Saturday’s 7-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates is definitely a good sign.
Lack of control has been Coleman’s biggest weakness this season. Without a devastating fastball or a real strike out pitch, Coleman has to rely on pinpoint location to get batters out. The fact that he walked 26 batters while striking out only 25 in 36 innings during his first stint with the Cubs this season was a major red flag.
Coleman knew when he was sent back to Triple-A that his job was to regain his control. Though he undoubtedly still has a long way to go, giving up only two unintentional walks on Saturday while striking out six is a good sign.
“Just build off (your previous starts), learn from your mistakes, stay away from the big inning and keep your team in the game,” Coleman said about his process. “Every outing is a learning experience for you.”
Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza look to be locks for next season’s rotation, leaving three spots wide open for the taking. Randy Wells has shown some signs of regaining his top form with a solid August (3.32 ERA, with 27 strikeouts and only 8 walks in 40 2/3 innings pitched) and could stake claim to a spot with another strong month.
With a weak starting pitching class available in free agency this upcoming offseason and no GM currently in place, it’s unclear whether the Cubs will try to make a big splash to bolster the rotation. However, more competition for the likes of Coleman, Jeff Samardzija (who may get another shot as a starter) and minor leaguers like Chris Rusin, Nick Struck, or Alberto Cabrera, is likely to be brought in to fight for the remaining spots.
At the moment, all Coleman can do is continue to make starts like the one he delivered on Saturday and hope to get a leg up on competition.