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Cubs struggle to stay afloat with early injuries

Courtesy of MCT Campus (4/19/11)

Shortstop Starlin Castro has been one of the brightest spots on a mediocre Cubs team.

Anthony Scianna, Content Editor

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The 2011 Chicago Cubs appear ready to change the outcome they had last year when they finished 12 under and in 4th place. Interim manager Mike Quade became the full time manager and they made a few big offseason moves including getting Carlos Pena and Matt Garza from the Rays. Starlin Castro continues to be the starting shortstop and future all star, with youngsters like Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney, and Andrew Cashner also showing a strong future for the team. The Cubs also added longtime Cub and fan favorite Kerry Wood to set up for Marmol in the bullpen.

With the team ready to go the Cubs opened at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although they ended up losing the series the team showed potential to fair well as long as they stay healthy. Unfortunately they haven’t stayed healthy, with injuries to their 4th and 5th starters Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner in consecutive starts. Both had to go on the disabled list until May leaving their spots to be filled by minor league starters and young relievers they want to stretch out.

So far their replacements have been okay; reliever James Russell got hammered by the Astros in his first career start but minor leaguer Casey Coleman picked up the slack a little by only giving up 4 runs in 5 innings and was in line for the win until Kerry Wood gave up the lead in the eighth.

Despite the injuries the Cubs have stayed around .500 so far this season. On the first home stand of the year they went 3-3 winning one series and losing the other. They then went on the road for 6 games and split 3-3 again. They haven’t always looked great, but besides for the 11-2 loss to the Astros they haven’t looked horrible yet this season. Hitting has been clutch at times and Carlos Marmol has been really good in the 9th inning except for the rubber game against the Pirates when he blew the save and the game.

Ryan Dempster started slow losing his first two starts of the year before finally getting that first win against the Astros despite not pitching very well. Carlos Zambrano has been off to a hot start winning 2 of his first 3 starts and hit his first homerun of the season Wednesday against the Astros. New acquisition Matt Garza had a successful debut, tying a career high with 12 strikeouts through 7 innings while only giving up 3 runs against the Pirates. He had a less successful outing against the Brewers, giving up 5 runs in 5.2 innings while also striking out 8.

The bullpen has looked pretty good, specifically the 7-8-9 combo of Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Marmol. Despite being responsible for 2 of the teams 6 losses the combo has looked very strong at times and appears to be one of the more feared end of the bullpens in the National League. The Cubs will do really well if they can get leads into the 7th inning, with that combo to close it out.

Offensively Starlin Castro has been extremely impressive, hitting .389 with a major league leading 21 hits and team leading 11 runs. Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez have also started strong, hitting .353 and .326 respectively and Byrd has also scored 10 runs. The power production has come from Alfonso Soriano who has 4 homeruns and 10 R.B.I.S to lead the team in both categories despite only hitting .250. Carlos Pena and Tyler Colvin are off to a slow start average wise, but have both driven in 6 runs and hit home runs. The Darwin Barney-Jeff Baker second base combination has worked out really well with Baker hitting .500 against lefties and Barney hitting .345 with six runs.

Despite their 6-6 record the Cubs have played well to start out the season and have the potential to be a good team when injuries clear up and they play to their potential. Starting pitching needs to improve, and the offense needs to be consistent for them to win more than they are now, but they have flashed moments of greatness, specifically Starlin Castro who could be on his way to an All Star season. If the rest of the team produces like they should, and they get leads into the 7th it should be over almost every time with the ending combination of Marshall-Wood-Marmol. Look for the Cubs to improve their record and start competing for the Division in the upcoming months.

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Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs
Cubs struggle to stay afloat with early injuries