Cubs’ Jake Arrieta doesn’t look like answer after another poor outing
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 13, 2013 11:27PM
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:34AM
PITTSBURGH — Two years and dozens of new arms into the rebuilding plan, the Cubs might not be any closer to knowing what they have for a 2014 starting rotation.
Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson are locked in, barring a trade, but the two power pitchers — Samardzija and Jackson — haven’t met expectations.
The front office is expected to explore the free-agent market again this winter, but the top projected available pitcher — young Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka — is probably beyond the baseball department’s means.
So what about all these other guys they acquired who are pitching now or are on the doorstep in the minors?
The Cubs want power arms — strikeout guys — and the closest thing they have used his start Friday to show why he was considered a tease by fans in Baltimore.
Jake Arrieta, already having pitched poorly in three of his last four outings, walked the first batter, gave up a single to the third, then retired the next 10 in a row. He gave up three home runs in four pitches to the next three batters — including Pedro Alvarez’s inside-the-park homer that appeared to be touched by a fan. The Cubs went on to win 5-4.
Arrieta has velocity and two Opening Day starts for the Orioles — and a 5.35 career ERA. He needed 85 pitches just to get one batter into the sixth before being lifted after a leadoff double.
“You see a guy that’s got stuff and command problems,” manager Dale Sveum said, “and putting guys away is his biggest thing right now.”
Cases in point were a 10-pitch at-bat by pitcher Charlie Morton in the third and an 11-pitch at-bat by Justin Morneau immediately preceding the homer binge.
If not Arrieta, then who?
Left-hander Chris Rusin, who has the staff’s best ERA (2.54) in 10 starts since replacing the traded Matt Garza, and right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who was just named the club’s minor-league pitcher of the year after a strong finish at Class AAA, have results. But neither is a classic power guy, and Sveum sounded lukewarm about both.
And then there’s Saturday’s starter, Scott Baker, a former 15-game winner making his second start back from Tommy John surgery. The Cubs took a $5.5 million chance on him this year, hoping for 20 or so starts, and talked from the beginning about the possibility of Baker becoming a longer-term asset.
But if he looks as good in his last two starts as he did in his first, then his market could get beyond what the Cubs are willing to invest.
“I love the city, and I love the organization as a whole,” Baker said. “But we’ll have to see because there are a lot of moving parts right now.”
Asked if he’ll consider the $5.5 million gratitude factor in would-be talks, he said, “It definitely doesn’t hurt. Put it that way. It’s hard to tell. There’s no way of knowing what the market’s going to dictate.”
NOTES: Javy Baez, 20, was named the Cubs’ minor-league player of the year after hitting .282 with 37 homers and 111 RBI combined at high A and AA.
◆ Anthony Rizzo’s home run in the seventh was his first of the month and only his second since Aug. 6.