The Mystery of the Cubs Fifth Starter (At least until Jake Arrieta comes back...)

The Mystery of the Cubs Fifth Starter (At least until Jake Arrieta comes back...)

Carlos Villanueva had a sad adventure today against the St. Louis Cardinals, and had to be bailed out by just-called-up Chris Rusin.  Rusin, to his credit, was excellent in garbage time as the Cubs only gave up two runs (one charged to Carlos) during his time on the mound.  And then...




That would be Blake Parker, who is already on the Cubs 40 man roster, so this was a pretty convenient move especially since most of us thought Parker should've been up instead of Brian Schlitter to open the season anyway.  So hopefully that will help out the bullpen, which has been shaky to say the least.  My initial thought upon hearing this news (or reading it, since she didn't speak to me directly but rather tweeted it) was that this might give the Cubs a set date to bring back Jake Arrieta or at least find a way to get Carlos Villanueva out of the fifth starter spot.

Today is April 12, and once Rusin was optioned, MLB rules dictate that he can't rejoin the club again within ten days unless there's a doubleheader or there is an injury (heaven forbid).  That means the earliest Rusin can return is April 22.  The schedule says that April 22 happens to be right in the midst of the home series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Before then, Edwin Jackson gets his shot against the Cards Sunday afternoon, then there are off days on Monday and Thursday of the following week due to the random two-game series against the New York Yankees sandwiched by travel days.  Let's run through it really quickly:

Sunday, 4/13 - Edwin Jackson

Tuesday, 4/15 - Jason Hammel

Wednesday, 4/16 - Travis Wood

Friday, 4/18 - Jeff Samardzija (6 days rest)

Saturday, 4/19 - Edwin Jackson (6 days rest)

Sunday, 4/20 - Jason Hammel (4 days rest)

Monday, 4/21 - Travis Wood (4 days rest)

Tuesday, 4/22 - Fifth starter's spot

For Arrieta, we know he's had a couple of rehab starts at Tennessee and he needs at least one more to be close to ready.   If he's not ready, Rusin can be called back on that Tuesday as I outlined above.  Otherwise, we will assume that Villanueva gets another shot if the Cubs think he just had a really bad day.  I don't think that happens; if I were the Cubs, I don't think I give Villanueva another start if I can help it.  Heck, I might not even let Rusin start even though I know some people like what he has to offer and he's shown signs of not completely sucking.

Another option is Tsuyoshi Wada, who has been shining at Triple-A Iowa as reported by Behind the Ivy (who is doing some of our minor league recaps for WSD).  The problem is that Wada is not currently on the 40-man roster, and the roster is full.  This would necessitate a move of someone from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list (read: Kyuji Fujikawa, still recovering from Tommy John surgery) or designating a player for assignment (but whom?).

The simplest solution is to hope that Arrieta is truly ready to go come 4/22, and this will move Villanueva into the long relief role in the bullpen while pushing out a fringe reliever (this opens up a new can of worms that I won't get into right now).  Suffice it to say that I'm hoping Arrieta is good to go and will make life easier for the Cubs rotation, bullpen, and the entire team.

POSTSCRIPT: Behind the Ivy suggested that if Arrieta already pitched on Thursday, he can pitch again for Tennessee on Tuesday and then pitch on Sunday the 20th for the MLB Cubs on regular rest.  So if we reset:

Sunday, 4/13 - Edwin Jackson

Tuesday, 4/15 - Jason Hammel

Wednesday, 4/16 - Travis Wood

Friday, 4/18 - Jeff Samardzija (6 days rest)

Saturday, 4/19 - Edwin Jackson (6 days rest)

Sunday, 4/20 - Jake Arrieta (regular rest, 4 days)

Monday, 4/21 - Jason Hammel (5 days rest)

Tuesday, 4/22 - Travis Wood (5 days rest)

This has the added benefit of giving Hammel and Wood an extra day of rest each early on in the season.  Also, since Carlos Villanueva is already stretched out, he can handle some of the later game load if Arrieta falters.  I like this idea better.

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  • I would rather skip starts from Jackson that Villanueva. I know he's had a rough year but I still think he's has more ceiling than Jackson, who is useless

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Edwin Jackson, despite the weirdness, actually had a non-disastrous outing against the Cardinals. The Cubs easily could have won that game. I guess we need to hope for a future without Jackson or Villanueva :D

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