Cubs still searching for rotation's identity

CHICAGO – One time through the rotation and it seems the Cubs don’t know what kind of starting staff they have.

Jeff Samardzija was off the charts good over the weekend with Paul Maholm the polar opposite in his Cubs debut Tuesday. Ryan Dempster was brilliant while dodging land mines on Opening Day, while Chris Volstad was about as mediocre as it could get on Monday.

It could be that nobody has shown their true self and that can still be good news for the Cubs as they try to settle down and recover from a disappointing start to the season.

Samardzija is going to have a tough time being as good as he was in his season debut, but Maholm doesn’t figure to be this bad moving forward. In fact, it would seem that Maholm will move up the scale more than Samardzija would move down it.

Placed in the final spot of the rotation only because he fell behind this spring after coming down with the flu, Maholm probably would have been the No. 3 starter under normal circumstances. The way he pitched, though, hardly showed it.

The left-hander had no feel for any of his pitches in the first inning and was roughed up to the tune of five runs from the Brewers.

“To put in blunt, I sucked,” Maholm said. “It was a bad inning. I didn’t throw like I normally throw and to put the team down 5-0 to even go in the dugout it was not what you want to do. It kind of summed it up.”

Maholm didn’t have anything more than a fastball in the first inning and even that was suspect.

“I don’t know if it was just my first game and trying to do different things but I didn’t establish my sinker, I didn’t do what I normally do,” Maholm said. “I told [pitching coach Chris Bosio] I was pissed at myself as soon as I got in. I didn’t do it and then I started doing it from the second inning on and things were better so I don’t know if it was more of trying to do too much.”

Maholm lasted just four innings, which is bad news for any team but with a bullpen mostly filled with guys who can’t go more than one inning it’s an especially troubling recipe.

“Yeah, to go deep in games and to get to that sixth inning, seventh inning is vital a little bit for the way our bullpen is set up,” Sveum said. “The [last] eight innings we gave up two runs so it ended up being OK that way. It gave us a chance to stay in the game and gave us a chance to come back.”