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Chris Volstad is in the running for a spot in the starting rotation
Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm are more than penciled in to the top three spots of the starting rotation come April.
That leaves Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija fighting over the final two spots.
Volstad, acquired from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Carlos Zambrano, has yet to allow a run this spring in two starts while fanning four batters. He has a career ERA of 4.59, but is known as an inning-eater. He's a reliable option who has made 29 starts or more in each of the last three seasons.
Travis Wood was also acquired this offseason from the Reds for Sean Marshall. Wood, a lefty, made just one start so far in spring training allowing one run in 2.1 innings. At 25, he figures to have more potential than Volstad and Wells, while being more reliable than an inexperienced starter in Samardzija.
Wells saw his ERA jump over the past three seasons from 3.05 to 4.26 all the way to 4.99 last season. The drop-off is likely to hurt his chances to compete for a spot. The Cubs are more familiar with what he does, and doesn't, bring to the table as a starter.
They may be more enticed to give Wood or Samardzija a chance to prove themselves over the declining veteran.
Finally, Samardzija gives starting another chance this spring. Previous stints in the bullpen in his career have shown an explosive straight fastball, but it's not very hard to hit when it's the only pitch that he could get over the plate.
The development of a controllable off-speed pitch is critical in his pursuit of a starter spot.