Russell, Cashner to compete for rotation job
Quade promoting healthy competition with rich pitching depth
CHICAGO -- The Cubs will consider lefty James Russell as well as right-hander Andrew Cashner for the rotation and let them compete in Spring Training with the other pitchers on the roster.
Manager Mike Quade plans to talk to pitching coach Mark Riggins as well as Russell and Cashner this week while all are in Chicago for the Cubs Caravan and Cubs Convention.
Russell was a starter in the Minor Leagues in 2007 and '08, but switched to the bullpen in '09. Last season with the Cubs, he was used strictly as a reliever, appearing in 57 games and compiling a 4.96 ERA.
The Cubs could have three lefties in the bullpen in John Grabow, Sean Marshall and Scott Maine. The rotation is very right-handed, with Tom Gorzelanny as the only southpaw option.
Cashner would like to start, too. He did that exclusively in the Minor Leagues, but when called up to the Cubs, he was used strictly out of the bullpen and posted a 4.80 ERA in 53 games. He finished strong, with a 1.40 ERA in his final 18 appearances. The difference? The right-hander said he had better command of his fastball.
He and Russell will head to Arizona next week to start training at the team's facility. Cashner said his offseason routine hasn't changed from last year.
"It's still the same workouts," he said. "I've been throwing a little more, long toss. I haven't thrown off a mound yet. I'm just trying to get my arm in shape. We still have a lot left until Spring Training. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
The Cubs would appear to have a lot of pitching depth with the addition of Matt Garza to a rotation that already has Gorzelanny, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva and Randy Wells. Quade said the competition is good.
Who will be the Cubs' Opening Day starter?
"I have no idea," Quade said. "What I do know is I have three great pitchers to choose from. There are too many variables to look at, but there's no question that Garza is in the mix. We'll take a look at 'Z' and 'Demp' and 'Garz.'"
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.