Carlos Silva thinks he's a lock to start

MESA, Ariz. -- In the mind of Chicago Cubs right-hander Carlos Silva, there's competition for only one rotation spot.

Silva believes he should automatically be given a spot with Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster. But as far as the Cubs are concerned, Silva is battling Randy Wells, Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer, Andrew Cashner, James Russell and Casey Coleman.

"Competition is great," Silva said Tuesday. "But I don't need to show them what I can do. I already showed them."

Silva was referring to the first half of the 2010 season when he was not only the Cubs' most effective pitcher, but one of the top pitchers in the National League. The 31-year-old Venezuelan began last season 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his first 11 starts.

Silva was asked if he should automatically have a spot in the starting five in 2011.

"Should be, should be," Silva said. "Because whatever happened [to me] after the first half to my heart and then my elbow, I don't think that's a reason to take me out of the rotation."

Silva had an irregular heartbeat that caused him to leave an Aug. 1 game in Colorado with shortness of breath. Eight days later, he had a catheter ablation procedure to correct the rapid heartbeat. After that, he made just one start on Sept. 7, allowing six runs in five innings before suffering right elbow tendinitis and missing the rest of the season.

"They're the boss," Silva said. "They will make the decision. If I have to win my spot again, I'll do it. I'm not afraid to do it.

"It's like they said yesterday, the fourth and fifth spots are still open. For them it's open, for whoever is competing it's open, but for me, there's only one spot open, because I'm one of the starters. Whatever they think is what they think, not me."

Silva had an uphill battle in 2009 just making the rotation after being traded from the Seattle Mariners for the controversial Milton Bradley. Silva had signed a four-year, $40 million after the 2007 season, and he was a combined 5-18 with an ERA over 7.00 before the trade to the Cubs.

Once again,the competition is a weighty issue for the heavy pitcher, even though nobody mentioned Silva's weight when he was 8-0 last June.

"That doesn't matter to me," said Silva, who is listed as 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. "When people talk [about the weight], I have so many years in baseball I know how that works. They only thing is put up zeros on the board and everyone is going to be happy."

Cubs manager Mike Quade said Tuesday that he does have a clear idea of what Silva and Wells can do because they have pitched successfully in the majors as starters in the past.

"I have a much better idea as to what to expect from them," Quade said when asked if Silva and Wells are ahead of the other pitchers in the competition. "In most of your decisions, spring training matters, but there's a balance on what you have accomplished before. If that's possible. If you're talking about a young kid who's never done it, that changes a little."

Silva said he has no complications from his heart procedure or tendinitis.

"I worked a lot on my shoulder," he said. "It feels really good."

Bruce Levine covers baseball for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.