When all else fails, and plenty does for the Cubs, there's always talk of the future.
Cubs fans know that all too well, especially this time of year.
Let's get to a few things related to 2012 and beyond as 2011 grinded on Tuesday night with the Cubs playing the Giants again at AT&T Park.
Had a chance to go on WSCR 670-AM earlier Tuesday with Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel, and talk turned to the Cubs' starting rotation for 2012. When my cellphone wasn't balking, I told Mac and Spiegs I figured Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster would be at the top. Garza, despite the won-loss record, is making his case to be the No. 1 starter on this staff.
Randy Wells has shown enough -- especially of late -- to be considered a front-runner for a spot. Just where that falls in the rotation (Wells ideally is a No. 4 or 5 starter) will depend on what the new general manager can come up with this winter.
We can talk all day long about who is going to play first base, third base and right field next year, but the quickest way to contention will be through the starting rotation.
The Giants are fading in the National League West race, but they've been able to stay this close to the Diamondbacks because of their starting pitching. San Francisco entered Tuesday scoring 24 fewer runs than they had allowed, and still, this team was 71-64.
Speaking of Garza, he was 6-10 in 25 starts this season despite a 3.68 ERA, the lowest ERA in the Cubs' rotation. Only three big-league pitchers with just 6 victories in at least 25 starts had a lower ERA than Garza: Detroit's Doug Fister (6-13, 3.35 with Mariners and Tigers), the Mets' R.A. Dickey (6-11, 3.57), and Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm (6-14, 3.66).
Talking fall ball:
Also on the McNeil and Spiegel show, we talked about center-field prospect Brett Jackson. Last Sunday, I wrote a column relating that it looked doubtful Jackson would be a September call-up despite putting up nice numbers for Class AAA Iowa in the second half.
The Cubs apparently don't want to add Jackson to the 40-man roster, partly because they have a lot of prospects they must add to the 40-man this fall or risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft.
However, the Cubs and the Arizona Fall League announced that Jackson would play in the AFL for the Mesa Solar Sox this autumn. He'll join pitchers Andrew Cashner, Chris Carpenter and Trey McNutt. Infielders Junior Lake and DJ LeMahieu will go to the AFL as will reliever Jeff Believeau.
Ready to move up:
Speaking of Andrew Cashner, he will head to Class AAA Iowa following a successful rehab stint at Class AA Tennessee. In Monday night's start at Tennessee, Cashner struck out the side in the first inning. He threw 16 pitches, 11 strikes.
"The ball comes out of his (Cashner's) hand real easy and smooth," Tennessee manager Brian Harper told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "It kind of jumps on the hitter. He obviously looks healthy."
Cashner is on the mend from a strained right rotator cuff, suffered in early April.
He'll work out of the pen in Iowa before rejoining the Cubs in a relief role for the rest of the season. Cashner's role next season will depend on both his health and what the new GM acquires.