Some interesting news regarding the Cubs 2012 pitching staff just came into light via a couple of tweets from Jim Bowden of ESPN.
The first tweet addressed the rotation...
Dale Sveum told me the Cubs starting rotation will be Dempster, Garza, Volstad, Maholm with the 5th spot still open for grades.
And then this regarding the bullpen...
Sveum just told me as of now bullpen will include Marmol, Wood, Russell, Dolis, Coleman & possibly rule V Castillo. Also said Mateo MRI negative
First name that you'll notice missing is Jeff Samardzija who looked to have had a rotation spot all but locked up until yesterday's rough outing. It's also likely the Cubs want teams to think they still value Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez as starters. Both will likely draw plenty of trade interest over the next week or so. Wells, in particular, had 25-30 scouts watching his last start (with some estimates as high as 40).
Wells will be pitching today and we can be pretty sure there will be plenty of scouts watching today as well.
The question is can the Cubs afford to trade him?
Even if Samardzija does get that last spot, he doesn't have a proven track record as a starter and the Cubs will need a fallback option. Wells has to be considered the best of those options. It likely depends on how confident the Cubs feel with Rodrigo Lopez being that swingman out of the bullpen. Casey Coleman is another option as that swingman/starter depth but his fastball is substantially better out of the bullpen (93,94 mph) and that may ultimately be the role for which he is best suited.
I'd have to think that if Wells isn't traded, he'll get one of the spots in the bullpen while Lopez goes to AAA to start the season, though it's possible they could both grab the last two spots if the Cubs decide against keeping Lendy Castillo. That, however, seems unlikely at this point.
Some names currently missing from the bullpen mix are Marcos Mateo, who's out of options but just sustained a minor injury and will be shut down for 10 days. It's possible he can sneak through waivers now in light of that development. Another out of options pitcher is recent acquisition Frankie De La Cruz. De La Cruz pitched on Thursday with mixed results but certainly didn't do enough to win a spot. The Cubs may try and sneak him through waivers and let him get some work at AAA Iowa if he clears.
The other missing piece is the second lefty out of the pen. The Cubs would have preferred to have a second lefty, but none have distinguished themselves. Trever Miller and Scott Maine have had the best springs, but Miller doesn't have a roster spot and it may not be worth it for the Cubs to waive another player to make room for him. Maine has not given up many runs, but has walked more batters than the team would like.
The other longshot possibility here is Travis Wood, who the Cubs were hoping would earn a rotation spot but has pitched miserably so far. Wood has shown solid stuff but his command has been all over the place and he's been up in the zone a lot. He'll get another shot today, perhaps his last one if he has another rough outing.
Here's how things shake down at this point...
Paul Maholm (L)
Jeff Samardzija or Randy Wells
James Russell (L)
Lendy Castillo (probably)
Randy Wells or Jeff Samardzija...if Cubs deal Wells than probably Rodrigo Lopez