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Reds 14, Cubs 13: Some Choices Seem Obvious

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MESA, Arizona -- Well, we can't say we weren't entertained on Friday, but after the Cubs lost 14-13 to the Reds, there are some roster decisions that are so blindingly obvious, at least to me. So let's run them down before talking more about the game, which drew 13,182, the fourth-largest crowd in the history of HoHoKam Park (looks like the spring-breakers are here, but even with that attendance figure, there were scattered empty seats. Scalpers were getting $20 and up for lawn tickets today, from what I heard. Other parks also had good crowds today). At least this was a three-and-a-half hour game that had significant action -- 27 runs and 40 hits.

First of all, Jim Hendry and Mike Quade: can we please declare the Carlos Silva Era over? Silva got hit hard. Really hard. He faced 21 batters. 11 of them got hit, one more walked, and four others hit long fly-ball outs. Only because of a couple of errors, one by Alfonso Soriano -- a horrendous throw in the general direction of second base -- and one by Matt Camp, did Silva's ERA not soar high into the hazy 86-degree skies over Mesa. It's 15.88 after 11.1 spring innings in which he has allowed 29 (!) hits and a pair of walks. If you are counting, that's a WHIP of 2.74. That's not just bad, that's horrific. For a comparison point, the highest WHIP for any ERA qualifying pitcher over a full season in the last 70 years is 1.785, by Mike Hampton in 2002. What Silva has done so far this spring is nearly a full baserunner per inning higher than that.

I don't have figures here, and I don't think spring training stats exist that far back, but I remember Fergie Jenkins throwing for the Cubs in spring training in 1984, the first spring I attended. He looked just about as bad as Silva does now, and was coming off a mediocre 1983 season (after a nice comeback to the Cubs in 1982). Now, money wasn't what it is now, but sentiment played no part in keeping Fergie. He was released by the Cubs 27 years ago tomorrow, March 19, 1984.

I would argue that even though it will cost the Cubs $7.5 million (that's $11.5 million for this year, a $2 million buyout for 2012, less the $6 million of Silva's deal the Mariners are paying this year), it's time to bite the bullet and just let him go. If there were any scouts watching today, they had to be less than impressed. The Mets ate $6 million today when they let Luis Castillo go. Yes, it's a lot of money, but Carlos Silva simply cannot help this team; he can only hurt it. There are several pitchers in camp who can give good performance, maybe even $6 million worth, for a lot less money. Just do it, Jim. Let him go.

The Cubs generated as much offense today as we've seen combined over the last week or so. Some highlights: Starlin Castro hit another monstrous home run, his fourth of the spring, nearly into the parking lot in left-center field; Carlos Pena had three hits and is now hitting .297; Blake DeWitt was 1-for-5, but drove in three runs; Darwin Barney had three hits and walked twice; and Aramis Ramirez had a pair of hits.

Pitching? Not so much. Carlos Zambrano gave up long home runs to Joey Votto and Scott Rolen, the latter of which was caught on the fly only a few feet in front of our group on the left field berm. A throwback ball went back on the field. Z said, according to a Carrie Muskat tweet: "Thank God, we play in Chicago and not Arizona. It's better air." Well, that's only part of it. I thought Z was throwing real well in the first two innings, with good pop on his fastball and good movement; at least the home runs were allowed to legitimate home run hitters.

As far as other roster choices, Fernando Perez again looked tentative in center field, not making any errors but letting catchable balls drop in front of him. Reed Johnson, playing left after Soriano left the game, made a couple of nice running catches. Both hitters went 1-for-2; Perez is hitting .200, Johnson .188. Perez seems to have one tool -- speed, and it doesn't really show in the outfield, just on the bases. Me, I'll take Reed Johnson.

And Welington Castillo had a pair of hits after he replaced Geovany Soto. He is hitting .733 (11-for-15) this spring with a double, a HR and five RBI. Seriously, how hard is this decision? I know Koyie Hill is well-liked and works hard; we've heard this over and over and over and... still, Hill cannot hit at all. Castillo isn't going to hit .733, obviously -- but why waste this kind of performance starting at Iowa? If he's not great with the pitchers, then work with him so he gets that way. The Cubs can't afford to have a black hole in the lineup every time Soto doesn't play. Thank Koyie for his service and offer him a coaching position in the organization -- I think he could be a real good one.

One final complaint -- in the ninth inning, after Barney walked on four pitches to load the bases with two out, Kosuke Fukudome swung at the first pitch to ground out to end the game. You'd have thought he might have taken a pitch or two from a pitcher whose control wasn't great.

Tomorrow, Matt Garza gets the ball again as the Cubs go to Peoria Sports Complex -- that's where he made his last start on Monday. This time it'll be against the Padres in a game that will be heard on WGN radio and seen on WGN-TV. A familiar face to us in the NL Central, ex-Red Aaron Harang, gets the start for San Diego, with Cory Luebke, another rotation candidate for the Pads, likely to throw most of the rest of the innings.

But please. Let us hear tomorrow that Carlos Silva has been released. Time to acknowledge the good half-year he gave the Cubs, but that the experiment is over.