And then there were four.
With the help of the schedule, the Cubs are going with a four-man pitching rotation for now.
Manager Mike Quade made it official before Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Quade is moving James Russell back to the bullpen and going with four starters: Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza and Casey Coleman.
Off-days Thursday and next Monday will allow Quade to skip the fifth starter’s spot and go with four until May 14.
“We’ve been very competitive; we’ve been in ballgames,” Quade said on his WGN radio pregame show. “That’s all you can ask — day in and day out, your guys giving you a chance. You’re going to have those days, but we’ve had too many of the rough days. Z and Garza have put together good outings. We need Demp to do it tonight.
“We’ll rotate those four, probably until the middle of the month before we’ll need a fifth starter. We’ll give James his rest and put him back in the bullpen, and then we’ll go from there.”
Russell failed to go 5 innings for the fourth straight start in Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Dodgers.
It’s hard to put all the blame on Russell. With the April injuries to Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, Cubs management found itself short on starters despite the annual proclamation in spring training that the Cubs had seven or eight pitchers competing for five starting spots.
General manager Jim Hendry released Carlos Silva after some bad behavior by Silva in spring training. During the off-season, Hendry dumped left-handed starter Tom Gorzelanny to Washington for three minor-leaguers.
Gorzelanny is 1-2 with a solid 2.93 ERA in 5 starts, as he has pitched 30 innings.
The Cubs have gone with youngsters Russell and Coleman at the back end of the rotation, and they’ve yet to get a quality start in 8 between the two.
Dempster took the mound for a critical start Tuesday, and he also was without a quality start. He also had a 9.58 ERA.
Things did not begin well for Dempster, who misfired on his first 8 pitches, walking Jamey Carroll and Jerry Sands. A double play by Andre Ethier helped Dempster, who threw only 5 strikes among 17 in the first inning. Ethier extended his hitting streak to 29 games with a fourth-inning single.
Dempster settled down, and the teams were scoreless into the sixth, when the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead. Dempster brought a whole lot of bad baggage into the game. His walk rate was at 4.65 per 9 innings, up from 3.59 last year. And Dempster’s home run to flyball percentage was an astronomical 23.7.
If there was any good news for the Cubs, it was that second baseman Darwin Barney was named the National League’s rookie of the month for April. Barney batted .351 with a .449 on-base percentage and 14 RBI in April, when he won the starting job at second base.
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