SURPRISE, Arizona -- On October 4, 2008, the Dodgers beat the Cubs 3-1 and swept their NLDS, and one of the results of that sweep, the second straight by the Cubs in the Division Series was the team mantra (whoever you want to blame for this, it really doesn't matter now): "We've got to get more lefthanded."
The eventual result of that, we don't have to go through as we have hashed and rehashed hundreds of times on this site, but the era that created ended today, neither with the proverbial bang nor whimper, but whining by Carlos Silva, who wouldn't do what was best for the team and possibly accept an assignment to Iowa after Andrew Cashner was named the fifth starter. Here are a few of the comments made by Silva, none of which are going to endear him to any team that might be interested in trying him out as a starter now that the Cubs have to pick up all of his remaining salary. (There was some talk at Surprise today that the Rangers are seeking a starter -- maybe they'd give him a shot, since they'd only be on the hook for the MLB minmum.)
It's great that the Cubs chose Cashner. He was a good reliever and could help the bullpen, but clearly his future was and is as a starter. The Cubs will have to monitor his innings, but that may be doable since the first four starters on the staff could all have 200-inning seasons, which would reduce the pressure on the bullpen. This cubs.com article indicates that Mike Quade thinks Jeff Samardzija, James Russell and Marcos Mateo are all going to be expected to be able to have 40-pitch, two-plus-inning outings. Let's hope they can all do that.
The final lesson of the Milton Bradley signing and its aftermath, which gave us Silva (who at least contributed half a decent season), to GM Jim Hendry is this: don't do anything like this ever again, something that backs the team into a corner and costs many millions of dollars for no production. This was one of Hendry's biggest failures, and he has to know he can't do it again. Ever.
Regarding today's game, a come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Rangers, the Cubs' fourth win in a row, I really liked what I saw from Cashner today in front of 10,337, a crowd that sounded about 2/3 Cubs fans. Cashner had a shaky first inning in which he made a fielding error and allowed five hits, including a three-run homer to Mitch Moreland.
And then he settled down and threw four more excellent frames, giving up just one hit, a double in the second to Endy Chavez. That's a real credit to him. He threw 72 pitches, 49 for strikes, and that was his longest outing of the spring so far. I was really, really impressed by his poise and ability to recover from an awful inning. Cashner will likely stay behind on Thursday to stay on schedule by throwing in a minor league game to prepare for his first regular season start, probably Tuesday, April 5 vs. the Diamondbacks.
The Cubs showed some offense early; Reed Johnson doubled and scored in the first, then hit a sac fly in the second and also made one of his patented running-into-the-wall catches in the eighth inning. Geovany Soto had a pair of hits; Marlon Byrd tripled in a run, and Koyie Hill was spared another 0-fer when Jae-Hoon Ha was caught stealing to end the top of the 9th. And, the Cubs bullpen was outstanding today, allowing only a ninth-inning single to Chris Davis in four innings.
So things begin just begin, to turn around. A good decision was made today. Let's hope that makes this pitching staff into one of the dominant ones in the National League. Tomorrow, Ryan Dempster faces the Rockies in his final tune-up before Opening Day. The Rockies, who will be the opponent tomorrow in Mesa, play tonight and have not announced their starter yet.