There has been rampant speculation that the Cubs will attempt to sign BJ Ryan, a move that, in itself, is a good idea. It would be a huge mistake, however, if adding Ryan to the bullpen were coupled with putting Sean Marshall back into the starting rotation. Why?
Well, first of all, Marshall’s splits this year show that he has been more effective as a reliever.
Second, because Marshall has been working exclusively out of the bullpen, he would need to "stretch out" his arm to be a starter again. This, then, implies that either Ryan would immediately take Marshall’s place on the roster or that someone like Jason Waddell, who was recently sent back to minors after spending time on the DL, would have to be called up as the lone lefty reliever until Ryan is ready to return to major league action. Neither of these options is a sound move. Besides, the entire bullpen would be stronger if it contained two lefties.
Third, it is very difficult to shuffle Marshall, or any pitcher, from the bullpen to the rotation multiple times. Without a doubt, Marshall has been a "good soldier" and has done everything that his team has asked of him, but one imagines that constantly shifting roles takes both a physical and a psychological toll on a pitcher. Marshall has settled into his bullpen role and should stay there.
Fourth and finally, whom do you move out of the rotation (and what will happen to this former starter) when Marshall is removed from the bullpen? One change, like this one, presupposes more changes. Pitching, to this point, has not a problem for the Cubs in 2009, and it would be wise not to tinker with it too much.
BJ Ryan’s addition to the Cubs would be great. Keeping Sean Marshall in the bullpen, with Ryan, would be even better.