It’s never reassuring to see a newcomer struggle during their first spring training with a new team. All fans can do is shake it off and say “it’s just spring training. When the games count, he’ll pick it up a notch.”
That’s what many Chicago Cubs enthusiasts are thinking about with Scott Feldman. On Mar. 15, the Cubs played the Chicago White Sox. Feldman allowed seven earned runs in 3.2 innings. His ERA ballooned from 9.00 to 11.81. He has yet to make an appearance when he doesn’t allow at least one run.
Just like Chris Rusin’s spectacular spring doesn’t guarantee that he’ll carry that over into the regular season, Feldman’s inability to keep his pitches down won’t necessarily become anything more than an ugly stat sheet for Cactus League games. Spring training is a time to work on things. Whatever those things are—they’re not working.
Of course, Feldman’s struggles have lasted longer than this spring. In 2012, Feldman finished the season with a 5.09 ERA. He made 29 appearances, 21 of which came as starts. Throughout his career, Feldman has been shifted from the starting rotation to the bullpen because of his inconsistency. He’s a ground-ball pitcher who, when he can’t keep his pitches down, will get rocked. That’s especially true when the wind blows out at Wrigley Field.
Does an 11.81 ERA have any effect on Feldman’s status in the Opening Day rotation? With injuries to Matt Garza and Scott Baker, the Cubs have little choice but to enter the season with him as one of the five starting pitchers. It’s also worth noting that when Feldman was signed, general manager Jed Hoyer insisted that Feldman wouldn’t have to look over his shoulder after shaky outings.
Feldman isn’t in trouble, at least not yet. If Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva are pitching well when Baker is ready to return in the middle of Apr., then Feldman could feel some pressure. He just needs to make sure that his first two or three regular-season starts aren’t duds.