With spring training quickly approaching, I will be previewing the Cubs position by position for the upcoming season. I will highlight the expected opening day starters for the position and possible prospects who fans can expect to see later in the year. Today I will start with the starting pitching staff.
1. Matt Garza, RHP: After a winter full of trade rumors and speculation, the Cubs and Theo Epstein decided that Garza is the pitcher they want to build their team around. The 28 year old will be the ace of the Cubs staff and the opening day starter. In his first season with the Cubs, Garza posted a 3.32 ERA in 31 starts. Garza finished the year with 10 wins, but the numbers are misleading. Garza could have easily had a 15 win season, but the Cubs lost seven games when Garza left with a lead.
2. Ryan Dempster, RHP: During the off season, Dempster picked up his option with the Cubs and decided to return for his ninth season on the North Side. He will look to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season where he posted a 10-14 record with a 4.80 ERA. Dempster is in his last year on his current contract so he will be looking to impress teams with a good 2012 season.
3. Paul Maholm, LHP: The Cubs picked up Maholm after he spent the first seven season of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs hope he can be a solid lefty they have been looking for since Ted Lilly was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2011, Maholm went 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA. Maholm is a good low ball pitcher, featuring a slider and sinker. Therefore, he can fit in well with the Cubs at Wrigley Field if he can keep the ball down.
4. Chris Volstad, RHP: The Cubs received youngster Volstad from the Miami Marlins for the infamous Carlos Zambrano. The Marlins had very high hopes for the hard throwing righty. In his first 15 career starts, Volstad had an impressive 2.88 ERA. However, in his past three seasons, Volstad has struggled to get batters out. In 2011, he went 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA. The Cubs are confident they can fix his mechanics and turn him into a quality starter. Hopefully a change of scenery is what Volstad needs. However, he will have to compete four other pitchers for a starting spot.
5. Travis Wood, LHP: The Cubs acquired Wood in exchange for pitcher Sean Marshall. Wood, 25, has made 35 major league starts posting an 11-10 record with a 4.18 ERA. Wood will back off the cut fastball he used as his primary out pitch last season.
Other pitchers competing for a spot in the rotation are Randy Wells, Jeff Samardzija, Casey Coleman and Rodrigo Lopez.
Fans can expect to see improvements from last year’s staff which had a NL worst 4.79 ERA.
Check back in tomorrow as I preview the bullpen.