Lilly's shoulder adds to Cubs' pitching needs

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Given all of the indications that the team had no plans to offer free agent Rich Harden arbitration this winter, the Cubs must have been feeling confident about their 2010 rotation. Big-money pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster were set to lead the way, with rookie surprise Randy Wells and summer acquisition Tom Gorzelanny likely to follow. Maybe the Cubs would take a chance on a rehabbing veteran, but they felt their rotation was set.
Alas, plans have already gone awry with the news Wednesday that Lilly underwent shoulder surgery and was questionable for the start of the season. No major damage was found, but pitchers don’t recover from shoulder scopes quickly. If the Cubs had him back at 100 percent by May 1, they’d undoubtedly be thrilled.
Of course, the Cubs should be able hold down the fort until then, perhaps with Sean Marshall. But it’s not like Lilly’s injury will be the only one they have to deal with. The typically durable Zambrano spent time on the DL this year, and Gorzelanny has dealt with his share of elbow issues. Wells was a revelation in 2009, but he didn’t show the kind of strikeout rate that suggests he’ll be anything more than a fourth or fifth starter going forward.
Fortunately, there will be plenty of guys worth taking chances on this winter. Rehabbing pitchers like Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer and Kelvim Escobar will be available at varying levels of cost. Injury-prone starters such as Pedro Martinez, Carl Pavano and John Smoltz could at least bridge the gap until Lilly returns and contribute off an on throughout. There will also be arms with less upside, like Jose Contreras, Braden Looper (probably) and Jeff Weaver.
The Cubs could have chosen to get by without any of them and used the savings to aid the rest of the team. However, that wouldn’t necessarily have been the smart strategy even before the Lilly news. Marshall is important in the pen, and there’s no telling what Jeff Samardzija will provide. The Cubs needed more starting pitching depth either way.

Walt Weiss returning as Rockies manager in 2016

Walt Weiss
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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As first reported by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Rockies have decided to bring back manager Walt Weiss for the 2016 season — the final year of a three-year deal he signed after his debut season in 2013.

Weiss carries a rough 208-278 managerial record through his first three years at the helm for Colorado, but it’s not like the rosters he’s been managing have been built to win.

The biggest need for the Rockies this winter is pitching — both starters and relievers — and general manager Jeff Bridich is also being retained for the 2016 season to try to find some.

Colorado’s starters and relievers combined for a 5.04 ERA in 2015, worst in MLB.

Colorado’s offense produced 737 runs, ranking fifth in the major leagues.

Astros flashing power early in AL Wild Card Game

Colby Rasmus
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Houston got on the board first in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium when Colby Rasmus led off the top of the second inning with a solo home run to deep right field against Masahiro Tanaka.

It was the first career postseason homer for Rasmus, whose only other postseason experience came in 2009 with St. Louis. He slugged 25 home runs during the 2015 regular season and will be looking to cash in as a free agent whenever the Astros’ postseason runs come to an end. A big October (and perhaps early November) would obviously help that.

Tanaka retired the next two batters after the Rasmus bomb, but he gave up a single and two walks to load the bases before eventually inducing an inning-ending fielder’s choice groundout from Jose Altuve. Tanaka’s shakiness extended into the third and fourth innings, with Carlos Gomez adding a solo shot to left field in the top of the fourth.

Houston leads 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Astros starter Dallas Keuchel has looked sharp on three days of rest, tallying five strikeouts through four scoreless frames.