Star of the Game – Scott Feldman – .248 (WPA)
Coming into the season, Scott Feldman was scheduled to be a part of the rotation, but his spot there wasn’t a lock. With both Matt Garza and Scott Baker on the shelf with injuries, the choice was made a lot more simple for Theo and Jed as to who made the rotation out of spring. The big question was if Feldman would pitch well enough to stay in the mix when either Garza or Baker came back. His first three starts of the season left much to be desired and it looked as if his time as a starter would be a short one. Monday night may have done a lot to change that as Feldman tossed a complete game and gave this team at least a series sweep with a chance to win it 3-1 tomorrow behind Travis Wood.
Roster Roulette – So Feldman’s nice outing tonight did a lot for raising his stock as we wait anxiously for Garza’s return. Garza, who made a rehab start for the Tennessee Smokies (AA) on Monday, is scheduled to return soon barring any setbacks in the rehab. His outing of 2.2 IP (42 pitches) went about as well as can be desired. He allowed one hit and walked two. Now we’ll watch to see how he feels in the next day or so. It’s encouraging for the Cubs as they really need to see Garza back strong and successful before the July 31 deadline. We missed the opportunity to move him last deadline so it’s imperative in the rebuild process that we maximize the return on him to continue to propel the development of this minor league system. The question then is who is the odd mad out when Garza returns? Obviously Jeff Samardzija is safe, as is Carlos Villanueva, assuming he continues along the way he’s pitched so far. Travis Wood, who goes tomorrow in the series finale should also be safe at this point. That leaves Feldman and Edwin Jackson, who has been brutal. Based strictly on the numbers, logic would dictate that it would be Jackson who is the odd man out. However, when you factor in money into the equation you have to start to worry if you’re Feldman. He needs to pitch like his hair is on fire in the coming weeks and force the Cubs brass to make a hard decision.
Moving on in the roster shuffle, the Cubs are nearing deadline day for a decision on what to do with Ian Stewart. He’s been rehabbing since being unavailable to make the team out of spring training and is currently on rehab assignment. According to ML rules, players on rehab assignment have 20 days before they must be recalled, which prevents teams from just leaving them on assignment to rot. It’s a tough problem because of how poorly Stewart has been hitting. He’s not even close to being able to make a difference for this team at the Major League level and the decision needs to be made by Friday. The Cubs are on the hook for all $2 million of his salary since he was not cut before the end of spring training. Last night’s game did nothing to ease the fear that keeping him was a mistake as Stewart went 0-for-4 with a strike out, lowering his average in AAA to an abysmal .091. I can’t see a scenario where he’s recalled based on how well Cody Ransom and Luis Valbuena have played this season.
Batting Order Shuffle – Lots of talk about shuffling of players tonight and the batting order was not immune. Dale Svueum made a change in the order, hitting Starlin Castro in the 5th spot instead of his 2nd spot in the order. The rationale is that it takes advantage of his ability to be a run producer, but personally I don’t see him as that type of bat. I like him in the 2nd spot, but tonight it worked. I wonder if the move stays with Soriano in the lineup. He had the day off tonight against the hard throwing, Andrew Cashner. We’ll see tomorrow what Dale decides to do. Personally, I like to David DeJesus, Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Soriano, Nate Schierholtz lineup one to five.
- Real nice approach to Cashner tonight. When he was a part of the Cubs system, I got to see him pitch a few times in AA and the biggest knock on him was his ability to work deep into a game because of the control issues and the propensity to work deep into counts and rack up strikeouts. You like a guy that can get guys out on the strikeout, but when it causes you to struggle to get through five innings, it’s useless. Rich Harden had similar issues and tonight the Cubs went into their at bats with patience and worked deep into the count, forcing Cashner out of the game after just four innings.
- Keeping with the Cashner topic, if you had to go back right now and decide what to do with that trade, would you still make it? Cashner was traded by the Cubs with Kyung-Min Na to the Padres for Zach Cates and Anthony Rizzo. There is no question as of right now, I would. Time will tell what Cashner will become. I still really like his potential, but I have a feeling the Cubs got the better of the deal by far.
- Much improved fielding by Feldman tonight. He’d been plagued by three errors so far this season.
- Rizzo now leads the team with four stolen bases
During each of my game recaps this season, we take a look at the night turned in by the home plate umpire. In 2012, the league average for correct calls on pitches taken was 87.1%. Tonight’s man in blue was Brian Knight who turned in an 85.2% grade behind the plate. Let’s take a look at how accurate he was and what his strike zone looked like.