Randy Wells notched his 10th win on Tuesday at Wrigley Field, defeating the Astros 4-1. Wells pitched into the 7th inning giving up just 1 unearned run. Wells gave up 7 hits and 2 walks, but struck out 5. John Grabow got Wells out of the 8th inning after a 2-out walk to Jason Michaels with 1 run already in in the inning. Wells is clearly a man on a mission in 2009. Wells has made every start (21 total) that has been asked of him since a May 8th start against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee. He has pitched 133 1/3 innings, striking out 82 while walking just 35. He has pitched at least 5 innings in all but 1 of his starts. If not for 4 no decisions when he left the game with the lead, we could be looking at a 15-game winner here in a shortened season. The Cubs have got to be thrilled to have the devlopment of Wells during an otherwise frustrating 2009 MLB schedule. Wells just turned 27 years old and he has a lot of good years ahead of him. It would be wise for Manager Lou Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild to keep a close eye on his pitch counts during his last 5-6 starts of the season. That’s probably why they took him out of last night’s game after just 94 pitches. Good move in the long run.
Ted Lilly and Wells have been the Cubs most consistent pitchers in 2009. While Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster have had off years (just 15 wins combined after the 2 combined for 31 totals win in 2008), Zambrano and Dempster are proven veterans capable of returning to the form that warranted signing each of them to long-term deals in 2008. If Zambrano and Dempster show up in 2010, the Cubs will have a nice starting 4 locked in for the 2010 rotation. The Cubs will likely not sign Rich Harden, as we have discussed before, so they will be in the market for a 5th starter to round out the starting rotation.
Keeping on the pitching front, Carlos Marmol appears to have settled right into the closer’s role. Since taking over for Kevin Gregg at the end of August, Marmol has converted each of the 3 save opportunities given too him. In each of those saves, he has not allowed more than 1 runner to reach base in the 9th inning. He has 9 strikeouts in his last 4 innings pitched, and the confidence just seems to keep building and building. His only bad outing since taking over the closer’s role was when Pinella threw him into a non-save situation against the Nationals when the Cubs blew open a 3-2 lead with 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning as Marmol was warming up to enter to save the game. Instead of opting to use someone else (Marmol hadn’t pitched in 3 days leading up to that game), Pinella stayed with him to give him some work. Marmol ended up giving up 2 ER on 3 walks and a hit, but finished the inning. It would be great to see Marmol to finish on a positive note during the rest of the 2009 MLB schedule. That will take out some of the uncertainty with the closer position heading into spring training.
And who knows, this could be a huge move for Kevin Gregg as well – not having to pitch in the pressure position as the closer. Since his demotion, Gregg has not allowed a single run, pitching 6 innings in 6 appearances, giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk along the way. He has 5 K’s during that stretch. If Gregg can get comfortable in the 7th or 8th inning set-up role, the Cubs could start to put together a strong “re-vamped” bullpen with John Grabow and Angel Guzman as well.
Hate to start to think positive thoughts for 2010, but as bad as it’s been this year, you would have to think that things can only get better…