Manager Mike Quade and the Cubs have confirmed that both Andrew Cashner and James Russell will be given a chance to compete for a 2011 starting spot in the rotation this spring.
James Russell started for the Cubs in the minor leagues in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, the Cubs converted Russell to a reliever and he made 57 appearances for the Cubs out of the bullpen in 2010. Russell finished the season with an ERA just under 5.00. The advantage for Russell is that the Cubs starting rotation is right-handed heavy and the bullpen could be left-handed heavy if John Grabow proves to be healthy. Sean Marshall is a lock in the bullpen and Scott Maine could serve as a 3rd lefty in 2011. It’s unclear if the Cubs would go with 4 lefties out of the ‘pen.
Andrew Cashner started exclusively in the minor leagues for the Cubs. He got the call up to the big leagues in 2010 and he made all of his 53 appearances in relief. Although he posted an overall ERA of 4.80, he did finish strong with a 1.40 ERA during his final 18 games in 2010. Cashner said that better control of his fastball down the stretch allowed him to be more effective at the end of the season.
The Cubs are locked into at least 3 starters — Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Randy Wells and Carlos Silva appear to be locks too, but who knows, the Cubs may be willing to part with Silva and eat some of his salary in order to let a guy like Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Samardzija (who doesn’t have any options left), Cashner or Russell to get some more experience as a starter. We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything else develops…