CHICAGO -- For the first time this season the Chicago Cubs might need a spot start in place of an injured pitcher, as lefty Tsuyoshi Wada is still ailing after leaving Monday’s 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"There’s still some soreness there," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of his Wada's left shoulder Wednesday afternoon. "We're not prepared to say yes or no on the next start. We'll wait a little while longer. It was better but we want to be certain about that."
Wada played some catch on Wednesday, but the team couldn’t determine if he can throw on Saturday in St. Louis. They should have a much better idea Thursday. If he can’t take the mound against the Cardinals there’s no clear-cut replacement.
"There’s a couple different directions we can go," Maddon said.
Here are the likely candidates:
Travis Wood: Maddon has insisted all week he likes Wood in his relief role, but it might be too appetizing to pass him up in favor of a righty. Going into Wednesday night the Cardinals are just 7-9 against lefties this season while going 39-15 against righties. Maddon isn't wrong in concluding that Wood has looked better in shorter stints, but he should be able to get through five innings if he's on his game considering he threw 3.1 innings on Monday. He would be on the right amount of rest. The only problem? Wood has a 5.48 career ERA in 17 starts against St. Louis, though most of that came when they were better equipped to deal with left-handed pitching.
Edwin Jackson: Jackson is less likely to get the nod than Wood. He's not stretched out, and the Cardinals are much better against right-handed pitching. It could get ugly if Jackson takes the mound. His a 2-8 career record against them with a 5.18 ERA isn't much better than Wood's.
Donn Roach: A Triple-A starter, Roach might be their best option. Wasn’t he signed off waivers last winter for this exact reason, to provide depth? Roach is 7-1 with a 2.29 ERA and isn’t scheduled to pitch the rest of this week according to the Iowa Cubs' website. He started last Friday and got the victory in a 9-3 win over Round Rock. Cubs President Theo Epstein didn’t rule him out on Wednesda,y saying he was part of the mix. Roach has started one major league game in his career, last season for San Diego.
There aren’t a lot of others starters having success at Triple-A. Last year’s cup-of-coffee guys, Eric Jokisch and Dallas Beeler, have both struggled, and former Marlin Jacob Turner won’t be starting anywhere soon. Epstein said Turner's elbow "flared up”, so his comeback attempt is on hold again.
The whole situation highlights the Cubs' lack of depth at the position. It’s not something Epstein is hiding.
“That’s one area where we have a short stack, and if we can address it before it becomes a problem we’d like to do that,” Epstein stated.
It might have just become a problem, though Wada’s injury isn’t expected to be serious. Expect rumors galore -- most of them undoubtedly false -- from now until the trade deadline as the Cubs check in on teams selling starters. That could net a back-of-the rotation hurler or a front-line guy, though the Cubs won’t mortgage any important piece of their future for a potential short-term gain.