The Chicago Cubs are two months away from their Opening Day Game for the 2013 MLB season. On Apr. 1, the Cubs will travel to PNC Park to take on Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates should start A.J. Burnett.
What about the Cubs? Who will end up as their Opening Day starter? The Cubs enter spring training with a reshuffled pitching staff. Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood return from 2012. Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva are among the main additions from free agency.
Garza, Samardzija and Jackson are locks to make the starting rotation. Garza and Jackson make too much money to not start. Samardzija has too much upside. Feldman was promised a chance as a starting pitcher. The other three pitchers will compete for the last spot. At least one of them will end up in the bullpen.
Ryan Dempster was the 2012 Opening Day starter. Dempster beat out Garza, who was the No. 2 pitcher. Since Dempster was traded, Garza seems like he’s destined to become the ace pitcher. Garza has recovered from an elbow injury that cost him the last two months of 2012. There’s always the question about whether Garza will get traded before Opening Day.
Samardzija could have a say in that. In 22 innings pitched at PNC Park, Samardzija has a 0.82 ERA, 0.55 WHIP and a complete game. Those numbers are from two starts and five relief appearances. The Cubs may need that consistency when they face Burnett.
Jackson is a long-shot candidate. During the offseason, Jackson signed a four-year, $52 million contract. Unlike Garza and Samardzija, Jackson must adjust to his new team. Don’t expect him to win that honor unless he dominates in spring training.