Injuries and ineffectiveness this spring have depleted the pitching depth the front office thought it had when pitchers and catchers reported last month.
According to a report from Bruce Levine, the Cubs “are said to be pursuing starting pitching” and Welington Castillo “could be the player who brings back a pitcher in a trade before Opening Day.”
Unless Jon Lester has a setback, the first four spots in the rotation are set with Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. The fifth spot, right now, includes Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson. But the Cubs are no longer eight to ten deep with starting pitching options.
RHP Jacob Turner was lost after his first outing. Without any delays, Turner should begin throwing again in mid-April, based on the timeframe given two weeks ago when it was revealed he had a bruised bone and mild flexor strain in his right elbow.
LHP Tsuyoshi Wada hasn’t appeared in a game since March 13 when he left in the first inning after reinjuring his groin. Wada has dealt with hamstring and groin injuries throughout Spring Training. Wada should also start the season on the DL. And RHP Dallas Beeler is dealing with tightness in his right shoulder. Beeler was not sure last week when he would be ready to pitch in a game.
After the dust settled on the injury front, the fifth spot in the rotation appeared to be down to LHP Travis Wood, RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Felix Doubront and LHP Eric Jokisch.
Felix Doubront has really struggled this spring and it does not appear the Cubs have him in the starting pitching plans. Doubront pitched multiple innings in each of his first two outings but the last two times he’s appeared in a Cactus League game it was just for one inning. Doubront has allowed nine runs on 17 hits with no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings.
Eric Jokisch needs more time in the minors but he’s shown this spring he could fill the fifth spot in a big league rotation down the road. Jokisch has struggled with his command, consistency and mechanics, but the stuff appears to be there. Jokisch has allowed seven runs, four earned, on nine hits with two walks and six strikeouts in four Cactus League appearances (eight innings).
With Doubront and Jokisch out of the running for the fifth spot, Joe Maddon announced that he was discussing a creative way to use Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson in the rotation. Maddon and Epstein are believed to be talking about a piggyback or platoon type scenario with Wood and Jackson based on matchups.
Travis Wood has been effective this spring, especially for a pitcher slotted to be a team’s fifth starter. But Edwin Jackson just can’t get out of his own way and did not help the situation when he was late for his own start after going to the wrong park.
Bruce Levine did not indicate which pitcher or pitchers the Cubs may be interested in. And the Cubs have not been connected to any starting pitchers by the mainstream media yet.
The Orioles and Phillies are two of at least four teams that have contacted the Cubs about Welington Castillo. Baltimore has pitching depth Dan Duquette could move in the right deal and Ruben Amaro Jr. has one of the few aces in the game he keeps talking to teams about and listening to the offers.