Cubs, Rusin Defeat Indians; Scott Baker Out Till June

USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs took a chance on Scott Baker, coming off Tommy John surgery. It's going to be a while to see if that chance was worthwhile, after another setback. ("Setback" seems to be the Cubs' middle name regarding injuries.) Also, that's not Scott Baker above. It's Chris Rusin, who threw quite well Sunday.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- You might wonder why this recap of Sunday afternoon's 4-3 Cubs win over the Indians at Goodyear was posted so quickly. The dateline is your clue; I skipped this one in order to get some other things done (and to also skip the long drive to Goodyear).

Aw, who am I fooling. You're not wondering about it at all, because you've probably spent the afternoon watching college basketball. I know where people are focused this time of year.

The win, which was a tight 1-0 game until the Cubs broke it open, primarily off Cleveland reliever Cody Allen, with a three-run rally in the eighth inning. There is one thing I noticed on the Indians TV broadcast, though, while that was going on. As Dioner Navarro chugged across the plate with the fourth run (and he should have been out; the throw beat him by 20 feet, but the catcher missed the tag as Navarro went in standing up) -- wow, is Navarro a big, big man. Having not followed his career very closely, I don't know if he's always been this, um, big, or if he's out of shape. The man can hit, though, I'll give him that.

The bigger news of the day is summed up by Gordon Wittenmyer:

Cubs right-hander Scott Baker likely will miss at least the first half of the season after an exam on his rebuilt pitching elbow determined he suffered a muscle strain while pitching in his first official spring training game March 17.

The team said Baker won't start throwing a ball again for another month. A rehab program at that point would take at least another two months to prepare him for a major-league game.

So let's calculate this timetable. "Another month" before he starts throwing again, that's April 24. "At least another two months" would mean he wouldn't pitch in a big-league game until the end of June, so figure you won't see Scott Baker in a Cubs uniform until after the All-Star break, which means forget about flipping him in a trade.

It was a risk. The Cubs took a chance on signing him, and it appears they'll let him go at the end of the season, $5.5 million poorer. In addition to losing Baker, the Cubs also optioned Rafael Dolis to Iowa, leaving three pitchers in the running for the last bullpen slot. That would be Zach Putnam (who let two inherited runners score Sunday), Hisanori Takahashi and Cory Wade... unless Theo & Jed scour the list of released/waived pitchers over the next few days.

The good news from Sunday's game is that Chris Rusin again turned in a fine outing. He threw 5⅓ innings and gave up just two hits and three walks. So Rusin finishes his spring season having thrown 23⅓ innings, posting a 1.93 ERA and a WHIP of 0.9. Obviously, spring training and all that, but he's looked very, very good. He'll be in the rotation at Iowa to start the season, and available to replace anyone who gets hurt.

* Cautionary tale about Rusin: he had a good spring in 2012 for the Cubs, too, posting a 0.90 ERA and 0.60 WHIP.

Interesting: Steve Clevenger played the last three innings of this game at third base. He made no plays in the field, so it's impossible to judge him defensively, but he did drive in a run with a double. If he can handle this kind of infield position on even an occasional basis, it would be worth keeping him for the last spot on the 25-man roster because he can catch. That would allow him (or Navarro) to be used as a pinch-hitter, increasing Dale Sveum's late-inning versatility off the bench.

I'll head back to Mesa Monday (and will be at the four remaining games here in Arizona) for the game against the Giants (and the Cubs expect a near-sellout); Travis Wood will go against San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong.

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