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Spring training kicks off in two days when pitchers and catchers report to the Cubs facility. Major questions have been surrounding the Cubs pitching staff this offseason. Although the stats might not look like it, the starting pitchers performed well last season, and they hope to build off that success. The core of the starting staff seems to be set, but there will be a large competition in spring training for the final one or two spots.
Here is a look at the Cubs potential starting pitching staff.
1. Jeff Samardzija-Only a few short weeks ago many people believed that Samardzija had thrown his last pitch in a Cubs uniform, but after several different trade offers fell apart, he once agains enters the season as the Cubs ace. Taking the reigns of the staff entering the 2013 season, Samardzija came in with high expectations. He had consistency issues finishing with an 8-13 record, but he did have 214 strike outs in 213 innings pitched. Entering the 2014 campaign Samardzija hopes he can transform into the star pitcher that the Cubs hope he can. Depending on how he performs this season, he may be a hot topic around the trade deadline.
2. Travis Wood- Wood was one of the only bright spots for the Cubs during the 2013 season. Although he posted a 9-12 record, his consistency gave him a chance to represent the Cubs in the all star game. He finished sixth in the league with 24 quality starts. The Cubs hope that Wood can build on his success from last season and improve his game this year. He seems as a sure lock for the number two spot in the rotation. Wood plays to his strengths on the mound and because of that he is in a great position to have a phenomenal 2014 campaign.
3. Edwin Jackson– After signing a four year $52 million deal entering the 2013 season, many Cubs fans were excited to see how the largest free agent contract that Theo Epstein has signed with the Cubs would perform. Jackson was a large dissapointment last year when he finished with an 8-18 record with a 4.98 ERA. Once thought of as a dependable middle of the rotation starter, now may be a bust. He will most likely enter this season as the number three starter, but he has a lot to prove. If Jackson can have a bounce back campaign he might solidify his spot long term for the Cubs, but if 2014 is a repeat of last year Jackson could find himself wearing a different uniform.
4. Jason Hammel- The newest member of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff may be the most important. Hammel may be this year’s Paul Maholom or Scott Feldman, a middle of the rotation starter that can be flipped during the trade deadline for some prospects. During his career Hammel has been relatively consistent, posting around a .500 record each season. He will most likely be pitching in the back of the rotation, but if he can provide stability to the back end, the Cubs may surprise some people this year.
5. Jake Arrieta- The final spot in the rotation will be decided during spring training and as of now it seems as though Jake Arrieta and Chris Rusin are the top contenders for the job. Right now I lean towards Arrieta winning the job because he has a higher upside than Rusin. After being traded to the Cubs, Arrieta went 4-2 in only 51 innings, so he is not the most experienced in the Cubs system, but last year he showed flashes of greatness. Arrieta would be a reliable fifth starter, if he in fact wins the job. The backside of the Cubs rotation has the potential to be extremely productive.
6. Chris Rusin- Rusin is the wildcard in the pitching rotation. After the trade deadline last year left the starting rotation depleted, Rusin stepped in and performed well. Even though he had a 2-6 record, he was extremely consistent, and the lack of run support was a major reason for his poor record. He has a legitimate chance to win the fifth starting job. If he does not get a starting job he will most likely end up in the Cubs bullpen, and will be ready to start whenever needed.
The Cubs may not have the most talented starting rotation, but if they can consistently put together quality starts, and receive some run support they may surprise many people.