What is Plan B?

The Cubs play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim today in Tempe. The game will be broadcast on XM Radio, Channel 181 at 2:05 pm C.S.T. Rich Hill will face Jeff Weaver. With the recent news about Mark Prior a good outing by Rich Hill would go a long way in easing the minds of the Cubs Faithful for the upcoming season.

In life, as well as business, things seldom go as planned. The best-laid plans usually get changed in midstream. It is always best to hope for the best, but have that contingency plan, the ‘what if this happens, what will we do?’ So do the Cubs have a Plan B?

Here is what is known. Kerry Wood is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Wade Miller is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. The Cubs are hoping both can return sometime in May or June and be able to contribute to the club.

The Cubs backup plan for Wood and Miller are Glendon Rusch and Jerome Williams. Neither have had a decent spring. And while Williams is young and showed signs of the talent the Cubs traded for at the end of last season, Rusch has had an inconsistent career….although most of his success has come in Cubbie blue.

This entire off-season and spring the projected starting rotation was Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux, Mark Prior, Glendon Rusch and Jerome Williams. This rotation, good or bad, was a given….unless something was to happen. Well it has, so now what?

Rich Hill has had a rough spring. In 4 innings of work over a two game span, Hill has given up 4 runs (all earned) on 5 hits, 2 home runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts and even hit a batter. Hill had an excellent season last year in the Minors but a less than stellar Major League debut. Everything that has been said about Hill this off-season is that he needs more time in a higher level of the Minor Leagues. Hill was labeled as “untouchable” during the off-season, but reports last weekend out of Mesa by Bruce Levine indicated Hill has dropped behind Sean Marshall as the top-pitching prospect in the Cubs Farm System. Rich Hill just turned 26 last Saturday and it is time for him to shake the prospect tag that has always surrounded his name.

Sean Marshall has been very impressive this spring allowing only 1 hit and 1 walk in 3 1/3 innings of work in 3 games. Marshall has not allowed a run to this point this spring, but with only 4 starts as high as the AA level, how much can the 23-year old left-hander help the Cubs in 2006? Marshall looked good during the first weekend of March. Marshall, unlike Hill and Guzman, was hitting his spots on a consistent basis.

Angel Guzman has had health problems since the 2003 season (a partially torn labrum). Guzman was once considered the Cubs top-pitching prospect but like Hill, has had an inconsistent spring. Guzman needs time, again like Hill, at Iowa to prepare him for the Major Leagues. The Cubs have been very upfront about their plans for Guzman all winter long. Guzman is only 24 and has time to help the Cubs down the road.

Do the Cubs have any untapped prospects?

The Cubs traded Ricky Nolasco, Renyel Pinto and Sergio Mitre to the Marlins for Juan Pierre. Mitre had a very strong outing on Wednesday for the Marlins and in 3 games, Mitre’s ERA is 1.80 in 10 innings of work. He has only surrendered 2 runs on 6 hits. Nolasco has yet to allow a run in 3 games in 8 2/3 innings of work. Pinto has a 3.60 ERA in 5 innings of work in 3 games. The trade for Juan Pierre weakened the Cubs farm system in the pitching department.

Regardless of the news the Cubs receive today about Mark Prior’s condition, they have to make a trade to add an arm to the starting rotation. The days of blaming bad seasons on injuries are over. The Cubs have depended to long on the promise of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and those days must come to an end. With the unknown surrounding Prior, Wood and Miller and with their injury history and inconsistent performance….too much quality starting pitching would be a great problem to have on the Northside of Chicago. The philosophy of the offense seemed to change during the off-season, but the pitching philosophy did not. The same ole song of ‘If Mark Prior and Kerry Wood can start 30 games the Cubs will make the playoffs’ has been played more times in Chicago than anyone can count. The Cubs have the resources and prospects to add a quality number 2 or 3 starter….next year is now….they have to trade for a proven arm and let go of some of the precious promise of tomorrow.

Daily Herald article from Wednesday about replacements for Mark Prior.

Will Carroll on XM Radio

Will Carroll broke the report in late February about Mark Prior’s shoulder problems and he was on XM Radio with Chuck Wilson on Wednesday. Carroll brought up a good question about Mark Prior, why was he not included in the WBC? There were rumors he was interested, but with Prior being considered one of the best pitchers in baseball he would have been a good addition to Team USA. Carroll hopes there is nothing wrong with Prior and brought up the fact that pitchers go through dead arm periods and sore shoulders. Carroll and Wilson talked about Kerry Wood and his recent surgery. Carroll said Wood’s arm is doing well and the Cubs are having him throw from a chair to keep his arm strength up. The biggest question is how effective can Prior be without much of a Spring Training and what is the timetable for his return? Can he be effective without the proper conditioning before the season starts? The Cubs have bet their season on a healthy rotation that consists of Prior, Zambrano and Wood and now it looks like the Cubs are down to Carlos Zambrano.

When the Cubs release the news about Mark Prior today, you will be able to read about it here at the CCO or in ‘Cubs News from the Wire’….check back for updates and let’s all hope the Cubs are mapping out a Plan B.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon