The Chicago Cubs are coming off a 2012 MLB season where they won 61 games. The Houston Astros were the only team who won fewer. Keeping that in mind, manager Dale Sveum has indicated that few job openings remain for Opening Day 2013.
Two of those jobs are in the bullpen. One of them will go to a pitcher who doesn’t win the No. 5 starting job, as Scott Baker or Travis Wood will likely join Carlos Villanueva as a reliever. According to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Gordon Wittenmyer, Baker will start the season on the disabled list. The Cubs will activate him in mid-April.
Typically, roster construction consists of 13 hitters and 12 pitchers. Seven of those pitchers are stored in the bullpen. They include three middle relievers, one long reliever, one left-handed specialist, a setup specialist and a closer. The long reliever often serves as a fourth middle reliever.
I’ve projected Baker (when healthy) and Villanueva in the bullpen. That leaves five more jobs. Carlos Marmol is the closer, Kyuji Fujikawa looks like the setup specialist. James Russell is the left-handed specialist. Hector Rondon came from the Rule-5 Draft. Formerly a top prospect before he underwent two elbow surgeries, the Cubs must keep Rondon on their 25-man roster.
That leaves one more opening for either Michael Bowden or Shawn Camp.
This past off-season, the Cubs signed Camp to a one-year, $1.35 million contract. One may perceive that as loyalty, however, it’s hard to see the 26-year-old Bowden get left off after a season when he had a 2.95 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He allowed just one earned run in his last 17.1 innings pitched.
It appeared as though Camp was the odd man out. However, with Baker’s injury, there’s enough room for Camp to make the team—at least to start the season. When Baker returns, maybe the Cubs will keep putting their “injured” (struggling) pitchers on the 15-day disabled list.
Look at it this way: it’s a good problem to have too many relievers. Now they need to keep improving in 2013.