The Commish Online                                                                                
Big Z to Pen Illogical
April 22, 2010

After a slow start in just four games, Opening Day starter Carlos Zambrano has been relegated to the Cubs' bullpen thanks to Lou Piniella.  The reasoning?  The bullpen needs help.

Sooo... in order to improve the performance in an inning or two of an occasional game, Chicago's coaching staff is willing to sacrifice the majority of innings every fifth game.  Common sense isn't just taking a back seat; it's sitting in that third bench row of the minivan with the young kids.

Money and contracts aside, nothing about this move is logical.  Wells and Dempster have been steady, so it's understandable that those two are staying in the rotation.  After that, the Cubs are suggesting that after four starts (the latest being a 9-strikeout, 6-inning performance by the way), Carlos Zambrano is a worse starter than Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, and a recovering Ted Lilly.  Suggesting otherwise is even more idiotic because putting an established starter who can log at least 170 innings into a reduced role with no replacement is flat out crazy.

Let's examine this further.  Chicago has willingly chopped Big Z's innings down to double digits, so somebody is going to have to make up those innings and logic would indicate that they need to be made up at a level higher than what Zambrano would have posted by the end of the year.  Lilly, Wells, and Dempster were going to start anyway, so Silva and Gorzelanny would have been the likely candidates to take the bullpen role when Lilly returned to the rotation.

Carlos Silva has had a great start in a Cubs uniform so far, but if hot starts were a guarantee of future success, Tuffy Rhodes would be batting cleanup today.  Looking at Silva's history, he had a nice string of durable mediocrity with the Twins before becoming one of the worst pitchers in baseball since 2008 thanks in part to a "fraying of the labrum and rotator cuff" last year.  So for all of the frustration Zambrano has given Cubs fans over the years, the team is going with the "other Carlos" who had five wins in his last 34 starts before becoming a Cub.  Would you give that guy a chance at 200 innings and relegate Zambrano to a third of that?

Then there's Gorzelanny.  I don't have much to say here other than Gorzo has a career 4.80 ERA, all in the National League, and the last and only time he pitched a full season of starter's innings (2007), he followed it up with a 6.66 ERA and hasn't been the same since.  A logical approach to having this guy on the roster would be to limit his innings and put him on the mound only when necessary.  Instead, the Cubs want him in the rotation instead of Zambrano.

Don't forget that Ted Lilly hasn't started a major league game since arm surgery, so there's no guarantee that he will be able to take the mound every fifth day.  For those that are defending the move by saying that they can always just put Zambrano back in the rotation if needed, then I ask why do it in the first place?  Having a pitcher go through spring training with the intent of throwing him every five days only to put him in a bullpen role almost immediately and then let him start again suggests that someone doesn't know how to manage his players.  Someday soon, I'm guessing Ryne Sandberg will get that chance.
Baseball Express