the cubs this morning shipped todd wellemeyer to the marlins for two non-prospects. as wellemeyer was out of options, the stark choice facing the cubs was placing him in the cub bullpen or getting rid of him.
thank goodness hendry chose this path and not the other. this page was amazed that hendry didn't move him sooner when he was probably worth marginally more, instead choosing to give him yet another look this spring. that has gone disastrously, with wellemeyer being destroyed to the tune of 22 hits and four walks against only four strikeouts in 12 spring innings -- a performance worsted only by michael wuertz.
the opening day configuration of the pen is starting to emerge from the fog, with dusty baker unusually acquiescing to an 11-man staff to start the year, but with the pitcher temporarily excluded being the fifth starter. roberto novoa is likely still to begin the year on the disabled list with valley fever. so the seven man bullpen can reasonably be assumed to include dempster, howry, eyre, ohman and williamson -- with the final two spots in some dispute.
wuertz, this page assumed before this spring, was a lock to be included after a team-high 75 appearances in 2005. but a scorched-earth camp -- just 6.1 ip, 14 h, 12 r, 6 bb and only one strikeout -- has probably jeopardized him. whatever this page thinks of wuertz -- and it is not favorable -- it would still consider him an odds-on favorite to make it, as management has to appreciate both his veteran status and a lack of alternatives in evaluating his spring performance.
that leaves a last spot open until novoa's return (and possibly longer). curvaceous lefty rich hill, reconstructed angel guzman, "It-boy" sean marshall and throw-in john koronka all figure to see starts at iowa in an effort to sort out the fifth starter business. but, presuming that he has fallen out of the race, double-a prospect jae kuk-ryu might come north with the club after a shaky but not unreasonable spring. also contending might be david aardsma, who was the other guy in the hawkins-williams trade of last year.
again, this page would suggest that the cubs and their prospects are best served in the long term by letting their inexperienced prospects learn and prove their way out of the minors with more time in west tenn and iowa -- and where an inexperienced hand must be called upon, let it be one who has at least pitched his way to iowa. that is neither aardsma nor ryu nor marshall nor guzman -- but it is hill and koronka. both are 26, both are probably as ready now as they will ever be, and neither -- should they implode under the pressure -- will be a major loss to the cub player development system. koronka particularly has chalked 905 minor league innings, pitching reasonably at iowa both of the last two years, and has had a respectable spring -- now is the time to utilize a player like this.
are hill and koronka the best pitchers in the cubs farm system? this page would find that a highly questionable assessment, whatever their virtues. but they are in the right spot at the right time, and they have the dubious distinction of having run out of time and promise.
the third conceivable way, it seems to this writer, would be angel guzman. though 24 this year, his arm has been opened and closed more than a ziploc baggie and he's survived just 47 and 18 innings in 2004 and 2005 respectively -- and he too has never pitched past west tenn. but guzman is in his last option year, meaning that the cubs will soon be faced with finding him a major league role or trading him a la todd wellemeyer -- a fate not facing marshall or ryu for at least three more years. at some point you run out of chances to develop, and guzman may be rounding it.