MESA, Arizona -- It's performances like this that have to drive general managers nuts.
The Carlos Silva we saw in today's 3-1 Cubs win over the Athletics looked a lot like the guy who blew through the first two months of the National League season in 2010. He gave up three hits -- two in the first inning, leading to a run -- and of the 18 outs he recorded, six were on ground balls and three on strikeouts. He didn't walk anyone and threw 78 pitches, 51 for strikes.
If I thought this version of Silva would stick around all year, I'd say the Cubs have their fifth starter. But there's no guarantee of that. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times tweeted Mike Quade's reaction:
Q on Silva's stellar outing: ''The plot thickens."
Indeed it does, Q. Carrie Muskat's game recap says the decision is between Silva, Andrew Cashner and Braden Looper and will be made by Sunday. Now, Cashner hasn't been stretched out and might be better served at Iowa. Looper threw poorly in his last outing. Does that mean Silva has the job? There were scouts watching him today. Will those scouts go back to their GMs and tell them they should deal for Silva? And in that case, how much money would they be willing to take off the Cubs' hands?
On a day of unlimited sunshine and pleasant temperatures in the mid 70s, 9,061 showed up at HoHoKam Park to watch an efficiently played game that took only two hours and 10 minutes, and might have been shorter if A's manager Bob Geren hadn't pulled Gio Gonzalez after he'd just turned a double play in the sixth inning (likely, he hit a pitch count). The Cubs matched and bettered the run that Silva gave up in the first inning with three hits and a walk of their own in the bottom of that frame, leading to a pair of runs, with RBI from Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano. Reed Johnson hit well today, with a pair of singles raising his spring average to .231 -- still not great, but better than Fernando Perez, who went 0-for-3 and who is now hitting .147. Barring something really unforeseen, looks like Reed has the job.
Casey Coleman was let out of whatever doghouse he was put in to throw a scoreless inning; Marcos Mateo did the same, and then to cheers as he walked in -- shades of 2008! -- Kerry Wood got a save opportunity, and induced three groundouts to nail down the win. In the bottom of the eighth, when the Cubs tacked on an insurance run, Geren did something you almost never see in spring training -- he issued an intentional walk to Scott Moore with Johnson on second and two out. That backfired when Brad Ziegler then walked Welington Castillo to load the bases and then hit Soriano with the first pitch he threw to him to force in a run.
Jessica ("Doggie Stalker" here, to those of you who don't already know) showed up today for the beginning of her annual spring training jaunt. We had quite a discussion about Silva and she claims no team would take on more than a small fraction of his salary. I disagree. The Yankees might; they are starting the season with Bartolo Colon in their rotation, and he hasn't been an effective major league pitcher for any extended period since 2005. Colon, admittedly, has had a pretty good spring, and of course Silva hasn't. The Yankees, though, could afford Silva. Most other teams would probably expect the Cubs to eat most or all of the contract.
So what would you do if you were Jim Hendry? What would I do? Honestly, I don't have an answer for that right now. Do you?
Notes: the 9,061 in attendance today raised the Cubs' spring total to 113,431 (average: 8,725) with four dates left. Tomorrow's game vs. the White Sox is sold out; Matt Garza takes the mound against the Sox' Phil Humber, who is one of several candidates to replace the injured Jake Peavy. The Sox asked for and were granted permission to use the DH (as the A's did today); Garza will bat. Important note: tomorrow's game begins at 4:05 CDT, an hour later than usual, at the request of ESPN2, who will televise the game nationally.