Arm injuries have had a devastating effect on the Chicago Cubs and their starting pitchers. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were supposed to carry this franchise well into the 2010s. Rich Harden was supposed to complete the final piece of a rotation that would win them their first World Series in 100 years.
It’s 104 years and counting. The World Series drought continues with no end in sight. President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are rebuilding an organization that was left for ruin. When Jim Hendry left the organization in 2011, the ineptitude was visible from the 25-man roster all the way down into the lower levels of the farm system.
Great things are expected from this new management team. However, patience is a must. As the Cubs develop their young players, they must find stopgap talent who can help them field a competitive baseball team. It’s a hard sell to free agents. Why play for the Cubs when they can get a longer contract or play for a better team? Free agents understand that they’ll probably get traded before the mid-season trade deadline.
That’s why the Cubs must take risks. In 2013, at least three of their top pitchers are coming off arm injuries. In 2012, these injuries cost Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino and Matt Garza a significant amount of playing time. Baker and Vizcaino had Tommy John surgery. Garza had an elbow injury that forced him to miss the final two months of the season. He was just cleared to resume offseason work on November 15, 2012.
What are the long-term effects of these injuries? All three pitchers should be available for Opening Day 2013. Vizcaino will likely start the season at Triple-A Iowa. If Vizcaino is promoted to the 25-man roster, then expect an innings limit. Garza should compete with Jeff Samardzija for the ace pitcher role. If Baker is healthy, then expect him anywhere from No. 3 through No. 5.
More starting pitchers are on the way. Will any of these players have short-term or long-term health risks? Hopefully, they’ll all overcome their injuries better than Prior, Wood or Harden did in the 2000s.
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood’s(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie’s defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and “4th & 26” in a span of three months. HERE is his Twitter.
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