Rich Hill and Jon Lieber Are Still Cubs' Best Options For Fifth Starter

Matt GardSenior Analyst IMay 8, 2008

Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster aren’t going anywhere.

With a combined record of 9-2, Zambrano (1.80 ERA) and Dempster (2.72 ERA) have been the dynamic pitching duo through the Cubs' first 34 games. Without them, the Cubs are 10-13.

Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly, both with an ERA over five and a combined record of 3-6, are underachieving, but are pretty much locked into the starting rotation for now.

The fifth spot in the Cub rotation has not produced thus far this season. It will be interesting to see who will make it to the five spot in the near future.

1. Rich Hill
Hill, now in Triple-A Iowa, was sent down because of one unimpressive start. Hill walked four of the first six batters he faced in a May 2 game against the Cardinals. Manager Lou Piniella, who used his entire bullpen and Marquis that day, pulled Hill after only two-thirds of an inning.

Sending Hill down was an overreaction in my opinion. He has given up less than half of the earned runs that Ted Lilly has in only two fewer starts. He’s also only walked four more batters than Lilly. He does need some development time, yes, but Hill is not a bad pitcher and he’s definitely better than some of the pitchers in the Cub rotation right now.

2. Jon Lieber
Lieber gave Cub fans a scare on May 7 when he gave up four home runs in the second inning of a 9-0 loss to Cincinnati. However, other than that, Lieber has been stellar all season long. In fact, he had a 1.86 ERA in 19 and one-third innings of relief this season before his blunder in Cincinnati.

The thing that concerns me with Lieber is his age and his ability to stay healthy. The 14-year veteran’s May 7 start was his first since last June when foot injuries ended his 2007 season. However, I believe that I like Hill, Lieber deserves a chance to show that his bad outing was a fluke.

3. Sean Gallagher
Gallagher started the season in Triple-A Iowa. He was 2-2 in five starts and 29 innings with an ERA of 3.10 in Iowa before being brought back up to the Major Leagues.

Gallagher has made two appearances for the Cubs this year. The first came on May 4, when he gave up one hit and no runs against St. Louis. More recently, on May 7, he gave up two runs in two innings against Cincinnati. Gallagher hasn’t faced Major League batters long enough this year to determine whether or not he would be productive in the starting rotation, but he certainly has the potential.

4. Sean Marshall
Marshall is no stranger to the Cubs’ rotation. Marshall was a starter for his first two years in the majors before being sent to the pen this season. Last year, Marshall posted a 7-8 record and a 3.92 ERA for Chicago.

This year, Marshall’s numbers have not been impressive. He has made 13 relief appearances, but has only lasted eight complete innings. His 4.15 ERA has come as a result of eight hits and four earned runs. Marshall needs to prove himself in the pen before he gets back into the rotation.

5. Jeff Samardzija
Although he is by no means the fifth in line to be the Cubs’ next starter, Samardzija has captured the interest of Cub faithful. The former Notre Dame wide receiver has spent the year in Double-A Tennessee.