Carlos Villanueva‘s start to the 2014 underlines the rather frustrating beginning to the season the entire Chicago Cubs have had. Officially the team’s fifth starter, Villanueva has made two appearances out of the pen thanks to a schedule that allowed the Cubs to skip his spot in the rotation in the first week.
In those two outings, the swing-man has not looked particularly good, going 1.1 innings and allowing four hits and two earned runs. He’s also been saddled with two of the team’s four losses on the season.
That is the big difference between being a reliever and being a starter. While allowing two runs in less than two innings is never all that great, if that was during a start, there would be plenty of time for his team to make a recovery. Out of the pen, Villanueva has become the goat for a relief staff that has actually pitched quite well.
Now, the man with the elaborate mustache will get to prove he actually belongs on the starting staff. He will take the hill for the first time as a starting pitcher for the Cubs this season, and will be attempting to help the team achieve a three game sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager.
That manager is the great Ryne Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman who spent the majority of his career with Chicago. His return home has certainly been enjoyable for him, even if its also been a little uncomfortable.
Villanueva will get the chance to try and shut a Phillies team down that has had its way with the Cubs (especially Chase Utley) and at least foil Sandberg’s going away party.
At the same time, he’ll show it might be best if he’s allowed to just focus on starting and let the rest of the Cubs’ pen deal with coming in for relief.