After weeks of speculation and prognostication, Cubs manager Lou Piniella named Sean Marshall as the fifth starter in the Cubs rotation on Thursday. Marshall beat out new acquisition Aaron Heilman, Jeff Samardzija and Chad Gaudin for the final rotation spot.
"Marshall is going to be the fifth starter, and [Aaron] Heilman is going to pitch in that seventh-eighth-inning role," Piniella said.
Marshall had an excellent spring, appearing in five games (four starts) and posting a minuscule 0.63 ERA. While spring games might not matter a great deal, Gaudin and Samardzija both struggled and Heilman was just not as good as Marshall.
In his first two seasons with the Cubs, Marshall started 43 of the 45 games he appeared in, posting a 3.92 ERA in the 2007 season. However, with the move of Ryan Dempster to the rotation last season, Marshall was moved into the utility-man role, starting seven games as needed and appearing in 27 games as a reliever, with an overall ERA of 3.86.
He was even called upon to save a game early in the season.
The addition of Marshall in the rotation is a good one, and he might be called upon earlier than expected due to Ted Lilly's participation in the World Baseball Classic.
However, by moving the left-handed Marshall out of the bullpen, it leaves Neal Cotts as the only left-handed reliever who is a lock to make the roster out of spring training. Journeyman Jason Waddell has impressed, but may not start the season with the big league club.
For those of you who play fantasy baseball, Marshall is worth a flyer in the late rounds of your drafts and should be added off the waiver wire if you are looking for an additional starting pitcher.
The Cubs are the best team in the NL Central on paper, and have won the division the past two seasons.
In winning 97 games last season, the Cubs top four starters took 59 of them, with midseason acquisition Rich Harden earning another five. Marshall is likely good for double-digit wins this year with a sub-4.00 ERA.
In addition, he is improving his strikeout numbers, 58 in 65 IP last year, and decreasing the number of walks he has given up, just with 23 last season.
While Marshall should not be the anchor of your starting fantasy rotation, he is a solid late-round value pick, especially for those in head-to-head leagues with wins as one of the pitching categories.