Cubs Go With a Six-Man Rotation, a Tentative Schedule and Other News and Notes

The Cubs announced on Tuesday that they will be using a six-man rotation the next two times through the rotation. The addition of Scott Baker will help limit innings for Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood without shutting either pitcher down early.

Scott Baker has been inserted into the rotation and will start on Saturday in the third game of the four-game series in Pittsburgh. Baker is scheduled to make his final start on September 20 in the opener against the Braves at Wrigley. Following Baker’s last scheduled start, the Cubs will finish the year with a five-man rotation with Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood starting two of the final three games of the year in St. Louis.

According to a report from Gordon Wittenmyer, the Cubs “plan to look at Scott Baker as a possible extension candidate this winter.” The Cubs’ rotation, going into next season, appears to be Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson, unless one of the pitchers is moved this off-season, which leaves at least two spots open and depth to fill. Jake Arrieta, Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin figure to be in the mix next season, as well as Kyle Hendricks. According to multiple reports, the Cubs are not sure at this point if Justin Grimm fits better as a starter or a reliever. The Cubs are expected to “target more arms this winter.”

But for now, the Cubs rotation order appears to be: Jeff Samardzija, Chris Rusin, Jake Arrieta, Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson.

2014 Cubs Schedule

Major League Baseball released tentative schedules for the 2014 season on Tuesday … and Dale Sveum’s Chicago Cubs will open the 2014 campaign in Pittsburgh on March 31. Following the three-game series against the Pirates, the Cubs host the Phillies for the home opener on Friday April 4.

The 2014 season is the 100th year for Wrigley Field, which was known as Weeghman Park when it first opened on April 23, 1914. Weeghman Park was home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League before the Cubs played their first game at the corner of Clark and Addison on April 20, 1916. The field was later renamed Cubs Park before being named Wrigley Field in 1926.

The Cubs play the American League East in 2014 and will host the Yankees for two games (May 20-May 21) and both the Orioles (August) and Rays (August) for three games. The Cubs play two games in the Bronx in April and travel to Toronto (September) and Boston (June 30, July 1-July 2) for three games. The battle for the Crosstown Cup will take place in early May. The Cubs host the Sox for two games (May 5-May 6) then travel to the South Side (May 7-May 8) to wrap up the four-game series.

The Cubs wrap up the season on September 28 with the last of three games in Milwaukee.

Javier Baez, Prospects and the AFL

Jed Hoyer told Jesse Rogers that Javier Baez put together as good a minor league season that he’s seen, especially for a 20-year old. Baez hit 39 home runs between Daytona, Tennessee and the playoffs while showing a lot of improvement along the way in the field and at the plate. Baez figures to be in the mix for minor league player of the year and is taking a breather before the Arizona Fall League begins on October 8.

According to the report from ESPN Chicago, Hoyer said that Baez is “still probably not ready to make the big league club out of Spring Training next year.”

Jed Hoyer sung the praises of the pitching performances turned out by C.J. Edwards, Corey Black and Ivan Pineyro since being added to the organization in July.

Albert Almora and Jorge Soler are on track to participate in the AFL as they recover from injuries. And he reiterated that Javier Baez and Kris Bryant will likely see time at other positions this fall, especially Baez. Hoyer wants Baez to get playing time at third base and second base and for Bryant to see time in the outfield.

News and Notes

Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez spent time together while the Brewers were at Wrigley over the weekend. Ramirez believes Castro “is being made a scapegoat for many of the team’s problems, with every mistake magnified by the fans and media alike” according to a report from the Tribune. Ramirez thinks Castro will be okay, pointed out he’s only 23 years old and added that Castro is not the only player “struggling over there” and “not doing what they’re supposed to be doing right now.”

Jake Arrieta is stuck in neutral according to ESPN Chicago.

Sean Marshall told Comcast SportsNet that he believes the Cubs will win and their master plan to build the organization is on target.

Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro are the first Cubs’ catching duo to record multi-homer games in the same season since Jody Davis and Damon Berryhill in 1988.

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  • triple

    Neil, great report! But don’t you think that will be a long road trip if the Cubs don’t play their home opener until August 4?

    • Neil

      Thank you for catching, corrected.

  • Dorasaga

    Eight interleague series? That’s too much. It’s not like the Cubs need trial or practice for World Series next year. LOL Interleagues are supposed to be exhibition games. If the commissioner intends to make them count, at least limit the (damage) games to 2 or 3 series, and balance the opponents faced for all divisions. Six unrelated series against AL East are unnecessary encounters. The Cubs won’t make money by visiting three of them, either.

  • Tony_Hall

    I am looking forward to seeing how our big 4 prospects do in the AFL. Any lineup with Almora, Baez, Bryant and Soler should be fun to watch and give us a glimpse at what the future could look like.

    6 man rotation is fine with me. I have always been a proponent of using 4,5, or 6 depending on what the makeup of your pitching staff looks like. Obviously a 4 man, in today’s era, would be for a short stretch, but 6 man rotations have been popping up and I think you will keep seeing them more.

    • Dorasaga

      The Roc under Roenicke used a 4-man rotation last year, I believe. It was exciting, not only for sabermetric lobbyists. Fans expected a bullpen day every fifth game.

  • Tony_Hall

    Edwards, Black and Pineyro had a great run after being traded for this year. The amount of good live arms that have been added in the last 2 years to this organization is impressive. The best side is the inventory depth that we know have for future bullpen arms, should allow us to have more hard throwing options to fill up a bullpen, as most of the best bullpen arms are starters and converted to the bullpen later in their minor league career or even in the majors.

  • Tony_Hall

    Castillo has now become part of the core. He has improved, not just offensively, but has now become one of the best defensive catchers. We know he has a cannon for an arm, and that helps control the running game, but his blocking of pitches and managing the game has also improved.

    This is all a good thing as the only real catching prospects are a long ways from Wrigley. He is now included with Rizzo and Castro as guys to build around. Now if we could just get Almora, Baez, Bryant and Soler added to those 3.

    I know some people will say, what about Lake? If he is doing this still next year, we will talk about it, but his L/R splits make it look like a platoon player at some point. He is absolutely crushing lefties and at this point, holding his own against righties.

    LH – 388/400/551
    RH – 281/333/439

    I hope it continues, and one good sign is his OBP versus RH’s is 052 above his average, while it is only 012 above his average against LH’s. That is good as it shows he is working to get a pitch to hit against RH’s and LH’s he is just not missing hitable pitches. Patience will be the key to him being an everyday player.

    • Ripsnorter1

      .281 BA and .439 slugging is a starting position player.
      DeJesus did not match those numbers. Let the man play.

      • Tony_Hall

        Absolutely! He should be one of the starting OF’s next year. He needs to be given the opportunity to prove over a season that he can hit RH’s enough to be an everyday starter. His raw skills are amazing.

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  • Tony_Hall

    Speaking of arms brought in by this FO, nice games by Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson the last 3 days.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Baker was a good sign–if they can keep him.
      Too bad he was hurt all year. Hopefully he can come back
      for the next couple of years.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Jackson was a 2013 bust. But I think it was all due to his
      oversized contract. In his heart of hearts, he knows he’s overpaid,
      and those big contract weigh so heavy on the mind. I expect, like Adam Dunn,
      next year he’ll bounce back to a mediocre season–his normal stat line minus just
      a little bit.

    • cubtex

      1 out of 3 ain’t bad…………. if you were a hitter.

      • Tony_Hall

        1 out of 3 what?

        • cubtex

          arms brought in by this FO. 1 arm out of 3. Scott Baker had 1 5 inning start and EJax has been brutal. Travis Wood has been outstanding.

          • Tony_Hall

            I was talking about their last starts.

            Baker is a proven vet, you should like him and I would say it is 95% sure that he is back next year.

            Wood has been a steal.

            EJAX has a 3.62 FIP and 3.84 xFIP, and a 321 BABIP all show a guy who is not pitching as bad as his ERA makes you believe. I know you will blast anything that tries to show something decent about him, but I fully expect him to have results next year.

          • Neil

            Tony, I am hoping the numbers are right with him for next season, but what I’ve seen has not been very good.

            I am wondering if Jackson is having the typical bad first year with the Cubs after signing a free agent contract.

          • Neil

            What about Feldman and Maholm?

          • cubtex

            I was just responding about the 3 Tony mentioned. Hopefully there will be many more Travis Wood success stories. Vizcaino, CJ Edwards etc

          • Neil

            My bad, I misunderstood.

          • Tony_Hall

            Plus these.

            Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn were the comp picks from Aram and Pena

            Hendricks in the Dempster deal

            Along with Edwards, Grimm and Ramirez

            Arrieta and Strop for Feldman

            Corey Black for Soriano.

            Pineyro for Hairston

            Paniagua, Fujikawa, Lim

            Plus the depth in the last 2 drafts too many to mention.

            Not all will work out, but that is why you need to keep stockpiling good live arms.

  • J Daniel

    tidbits on several of the posts that I agree with … IMO … Lake should start everyday next year … Should re-sign Baker otherwise a bad signing this year … Jackson should return to normal next year which is average at best and hopefully well enough to be moved … Castillo is part of the core moving forward …and as always, GREAT report Neil!

  • CubbyDenCritic

    I know the talk is about the “Big Four”…..but if we are line to pick #4, shouldn’t we be thinking about the “Big Five” next year at this time!…….and who would it be?…….remember, Bryant rose through the draft….so maybe a guy ranked #15 now, may be the #4 pick next June…….they say the next draft will be loaded with Pitchers.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    If Baker resigns, I see Theo trading a Starting pitcher or two…..because Theo will have to promise Baker a spot……Rusin, Arrieta, Villanueva & Grimm all can’t stay……..Russell, Strop, Rosscupp will be locked in…..and Ramirez, Vizcaino, Cabrera & Hendricks are on the rise…..then there is Mashario Tanaka…..young arm….Theo will push hard for him.
    Oh what problems we have now.

    • 07GreyDigger

      Good problems to have…

      • CubbyDenCritic

        It seems it is all gelling together……look at the age group of our young stars…..we are talking about a “Dynasty” in the making……..Here comes the “Big Blue Machine”.

    • John_CC

      None of Arrieta, Villanueva or Grimm are close to being garaunteed spot in the starting rotation. Arrieta will have the longest leash, Villanueva and Grimm are most likely bullpen/swing guys.

      But I agree, nice problem to have. Not unlike last spring when there were 6 legitimate candidates.

      I really hope they go all in for Tanaka…if they believe he is a TOR pitcher.

  • 07GreyDigger

    Baez and Bryant are expected to play different positions in the AFL. The FO can say all they want that they are set to play their given positions, but I bet they are very excited to see where else these guys can excel at.

    • John_CC

      Absolutely! If Baez can handle 3B, Bryant is a natural to move to LF. Two huge holes filled.

  • cubtex

    I understand people trying to grasp for anything positive looking ahead but I think it is way premature to call Wellington Castillo a fixture as a starting catcher moving forward. I will point out his offensive stats but the thing that is really bothersome is that the 2 top pitchers on the staff starting out the year in Garza and Shark did not like throwing to him. That says something right there. Now…lets talk about offensive production. Castillo hit 2 HR’s last night that gave him a grand total of 6 for the year. Compare his number to Dioneer Navarro.

    104 games played

    402 PA 6 HR with a grand total of 28 RBI(that is not a misprint)

    This next stat is absolutely amazing. Look how he performs with runners in scoring position.

    139 PA with RISP. Guess how many RBI he has???

    Would you have guessed 4? That is amazing! He has come to bat 139 times with a runner on 2nd or 3rd and he has only driven in 4 runs???


    226 PA 12 HR with 31 RBI

    • 07GreyDigger

      Dioner Navarro is having a great season for sure, but people forget about him is that he’s been an up and down player too. If you take out this season and his 2008 season where he hit .295, he’s hit .231. Is this a guy you want to re-sign and commit big ABs too?

      There’s two sides to every story.

      • cubtex

        I agree. Not saying to resign Navarro….just pointing out that Castillo is not a fixture behind the plate after this year imo

    • daverj

      Agreed. But it is also too early to rule Castillo out as a fixture at C. I think we need to see how 2014 plays out.

      • cubtex

        Exactly. I am not writing him off but I am not penciling him for the next 5 year. Look at Geo Soto as an example. Let’s see how Castillo does next year.

      • cubtex

        When Garza and Shark are both vocal about having Navarro catch them instead of Castillo….that says a lot.

        • 07GreyDigger

          Do you think Garza would have felt the same if the backup wasn’t someone who had caught him for years before in Tampa?

          • cubtex

            How many years ago did Navarro catch him in Tampa? What about Samardzija saying the same thing?

          • 07GreyDigger

            Monkey see monkey do. :)

        • JasonOfTheBurbs

          I don’t think Shark’s thoughts should carry that much weight…he doesn’t seem like a mental/emotional giant.

  • John_CC

    I guess Aramis would know what it’s like to be a scapegoat.

    • 07GreyDigger

      That guy needs to let it go. I know that Castro and him were former teammates, but we don’t need Ramirez poisoning Castro’s mind about what’s going on. What a loser.

    • jtrain23

      Aramis would be a great guy to give advice at what not to do, however. If you want to be successful, then condition yourself, create your work habit, and hustle exactly the opposite way that he did most of the time.
      He did have his moments at times with the Cubs, and I do believe that he had some things laid on his shoulders that were not his fault, but that’s what happens when you get the big bucks. He had so much potential coming over from Pittsburgh. There is no telling how good he could have been if he had worked harder at his fielding and been in good enough condition to hit in April and May and stay healthy for a full season.

      • jtrain23

        But….hopefully he was just trying to give encouragement to a former teammate and friend. Should we give him the benefit of the doubt??

      • Brp921

        Olives him in the beginning he was the best thing Jim Henry did. But in the end he let us down.

  • Rick Barkan

    I hate when Aramis Ramirez makes comments. Doesn’t he know that he was the lazyest cub at 3rd base.

    • Brp921

      Yeah, my thoughts were that Ramirez had sour grapes. Get over it Ramirez you made your bed.

  • triple

    As far as the Castillo is showing improvement / resign Navarro debate, I do believe that Castilo is showing potential, but I think the Cubs would be foolish to hand him the reigns. However, it would be smart to try to resign Navarro to a 2 year contract with an option for a 3rd year under the pretense that there will be a competition between the 2 for the starting job next spring. Afterall, the result could be that they both split the playing time, with PT going to the guy who’s got the hotter bat.

    Combined, they’ve provided the Cubs with .284BA/18HR/59RBI, not to mention a good switch hitting pinch hitter. Although Castillo’s slugging % and production have dropped from last year, he has improved on batting average and OBP. Also, is it a surprise to anyone that Navarro has hit 8 of his 12 homers at Wrigley? Yet, somehow Castillo has hit 5 of his 6 homers on the road? Weird! Not to mention, Castillo’s WAR of 4.0, and Navarro’s being 1.8, adds up to 5.8 makes for a decent rating as a catcher.

    They can actually complement each other behind the plate for the next 2 to 3 years while we wait for a catcher to develop in our system. And in that time, who knows, but maybe Castillo turns into a solid starter that makes for no rush to replace him.