It looked like six pitchers for five spots initially, but with Jeff Samardzija having made a strong early impression on new manager Dale Sveum, there are currently seven pitchers in the mix for the Cubs rotation.
The givens are Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, though Garza’s name has been a very popular one in trade rumors. After those two were expected to be Paul Maholm and Randy Wells, leaving newcomers Chris Volstad and Travis Wood competing for one spot. Samardzija’s emergence, though, has broadened the competition and perhaps left Wells vulernable to being replaced.
Volstad, for what it’s worth, has answered the bell early on. He pitched three scoreless innings in a win against the Giants on Tuesday, bringing his spring total to six scoreless frames. Samardzija has allowed two runs in his six innings and boasts a nice 6/0 K/BB ratio. Wells has pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, while Wood has allowed one run in 2 1/3 innings.
Since Wood, who came over in the Sean Marshall deal, has options left, he seems the most likely candidate to be bumped now. Samardzija then could take the spot of either Volstad or Wells if he’s promoted from the bullpen. Wells has seen his ERA jump from 3.05 in 2009 to 4.26 in 2010 and 4.99 last season, so there’s no reason he should be promised anything.
Cardinals right-handed reliever Greg Holland has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip impingement, per a team announcement on Saturday. In corresponding moves, catcher Carson Kelly (right hamstring strain) and lefty reliever Tyler Lyons (back strain) were activated from the disabled list, while catcher Steven Baron was optioned to Triple-A Memphis. The team has yet to reveal how long Holland is expected to be sidelined.
The 32-year-old reliever hasn’t looked quite himself this season, limping toward a 9.45 ERA, 10.1 BB/9 and 6.8 SO/9 in just 13 1/3 innings of work. It’s a concerning departure from the sub-4.00 ERA and NL-leading 41 saves he posted with the Rockies in 2017, though a brief stay on the disabled list may help him iron out some of the issues that have prevented him from replicating those numbers in 2018. This is the first major injury he’s sustained since 2015, when he underwent surgery to repair a torn UCL in his pitching arm; he doesn’t appear to have a history of hip issues, either.
Lyons, 30, will slot back into the bullpen while Holland recovers. The left-hander landed on the 10-day disabled list in mid-May after pitching to a 6.17 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 across 11 2/3 innings — underwhelming results, to be sure, but nothing close to Holland’s career-worst output. Lyons saw mixed results in two rehab starts with Double-A Springfield earlier this month, allowing two runs on two hits and recording one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.