That's right, Chicago Cubs fans, your long, national, we-don't-have-a-fifth-starter nightmare is just about over. Probably. Maybe. We're pretty sure. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune is
reporting speculating that veteran lefty Doug Davis, whom the Cubs signed to a minor league deal a few weeks ago, appears to be on track to join the team for a Saturday afternoon home game against the San Francisco Giants on May 14.
The 35-year-old Davis pitched six and two-thirds innings for the Daytona Cubs today, giving up only two hits and two walks while striking out seven. The D-Cubs won the game 5-0 (and are a heck of a good team; check 'em out if you get the chance). Sullivan writes that he's "expected" to make his next start for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs on Tuesday and is "in line to join the Cubs' rotation soon after."
Therein lies a slight problem, though, because that would mean Davis would have to pitch against the Giants on only four days rest. It's possible, however, the Cubs could limit his pitch count in Iowa. Of course, another possibility is that Davis doesn't get the May 14 start after all.
Another veteran pitcher signed to a minor league deal, the 39-year-old Ramon Ortiz, has made five starts for Iowa (good for a 3.45 ERA, for what it's worth). In his last three outings, Ortiz has gone at least six innings and seven innings twice. His last start was yesterday -- a four-hit, one-run win over the Round Rock Express. That would put Ortiz perfectly on track for another start on Monday and then the big league start against the reigning World Series champs on Saturday. So don't pencil Davis in just yet.
How did we get here? Ever since two-fifths of the team's starting rotation -- Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner -- went on the DL on the same day (April 8), Cubs fans have had to endure the James Russell Experiment. No, that's not a jam band appearing at this year's Bonnaroo Festival. Russell is a left-handed reliever whose stuff and results indicate that he's more than likely best suited for facing left-handed batters only.
Nonetheless, after manager Mike Quade put Triple-A-call-up Casey Coleman in one of the open starting rotation spots and still needed another starter, he turned to Russell. Over and over and over again. To his credit, Russell has taken the mound when asked and done his best. Unfortunately, as mentioned, his pitching repertoire just doesn't play well to right-handed hitters -- especially good ones and particularly when they have a chance to face him several times in a game. Because of this, many Cubs fans have been loudly wondering why Quade has stuck with Russell over a Triple A replacement who, while probably not much better, could have at least enabled the team to keep its bullpen intact.
We may never know now. The good news is that there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel worn on the cap of one of the two aged hurlers mentioned. Godspeed to you, good sirs. Godspeed.