One of the more curious aspects of covering the Cubs all these years has been the organization's insistence on carrying 12 pitchers at the major-league level. It was that way under Dusty Baker when he was field manager, and it's like that now under Lou Piniella.
I could see the need for 12 pitchers _ well, maybe not _ if Lou was actually going to use 12 pitchers. But right now, the Cubs are carrying 12 while using only 11. In other words, they have essentially an 11-man pitching staff without benefit of the extra position player.
The guy the Cubs are trying to hide here is rookie David Patton, the Rule 5 kid out of Colorado they obtained at the winter meetings in a trade with the Reds. Having Patton on the roster would be all well and good if the Cubs were actually going to use him. As it is, Patton hasn't appeared in a game since May 9 at Milwaukee, when he gave up 3 hits, 1 walk and 2 runs in two-thirds of an inning. Before that, Patton pitched May 5 and May 1. Since the 9th, he's warmed up, but he hasn't gotten into a game.
This seems unfair to Patton, who hadn't pitched above Class A ball until this year and who needs the work, both to stay sharp and to rebuild the confidence he had in spring training, when he wowed the Cubs and made the team.
Patton isn't the only guy Lou is reluctant to use these days. Lefty Neal Cotts went from May 9 until Sunday between games, and Lou seems to like Sean Marshall as his lefty in the pen.
Although the offense has found a spark of late, the Cubs still could use the extra bat. How about calling longtime organization guy Jake Fox, who has been atop all three Triple Crown categories as he completely destroys the Pacific Coast League at Class AAA Iowa? Now ol' Jake isn't going to give you much defense. Heck the Cubs have tried him at catcher, the infield corners and the outfield corners, and they haven't much liked what they've seen. But the people I've talked with say Jake is flat-out a major-league hitter. He could give D-Lee a break at first base and come out later for defense. With Mike Fontenot slumping badly, you could put Jake at third to start a ballgame and get him out later. And, of course, he could pinch hit and get you a knock.
Anyway, it's all well and good to say you need 12 pitchers. But if you're going to say that, you ought to use them.
Speaking of pitchers, Randy Wells figures to stay with the team when Big Z comes off the DL on Friday. Lou could move Marshall down to the pen and keep Wells in the rotation, where he has an 0.00 ERA over 11 innings in his 2 starts. He should have gotten his first major-league win on Saturday, but Kevin Gregg blew a 4-0 lead in the ninth.
Wells' WHIP (walks plus hits per 1 inning pitched) is a respectable 1.27 and is actually best among Cubs starters, but with a small sample size. If Marshall goes to the bullpen after Thursday's start, Wells could be your No. 5 starter for at least a little while.