Chicago Cubs: Lilly's Return Couldn't Be More Needed

John EngelCorrespondent IApril 22, 2010

CHICAGO - AUGUST 28: Starting pitcher Ted Lilly #30 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the New York Mets on August 28, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Mets 5-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the 2010 season, the Chicago Cubs rotation has been as dependable as a Toyota especially since the recent move by Lou Piniella of Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen, and complete domination by recently acquired starter Carlos Silva.

Silva who on Wednesday threw six complete innings, giving up only two hits and one earned run to go with his four strikeouts - has two wins in his three starts, after only winning five games in 34 starts for the Seattle Mariners in two years.

Is this cause for excitement for staggering Cubs fans?

Not quite. 

With Seattle, Silva struggled to command pitches and sported an astronomical ERA (lowest 6.46), while in a pitchers ball park, backed by one of the best statistical defenses in the MLB. Silva also battled a shoulder injury, which left him stranded on the DL for the majority of his contract. 

Though Silva has started the season as good as anyone in the National League for the Cubs, Chicago still has no definite "ace" and will sport an $18 million set-up man in Zambrano. 

After two solid outings for Class A Peoria, Ted Lilly will return to the top of a terrible rotation against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday or Sunday, according to the Cubs, bringing relief to a rotation that is currently eighth in the National League in ERA (4.29).

In November, Lilly underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, hindering him from play for five months. 

Lilly, in the 2009 season, led the Cubs with 12 wins in 177 innings pitched and an ERA of 3.10, which was good enough for second best on the Chicago pitching staff. 

Most likely, the Cubs will limit Lilly to 5 innings or 100 pitches in his first start of the season, in order to maintain his shoulder, and keep him off the DL. 

Chicago currently sits at 6-9 in the National League Central, good enough (or bad enough) for fourth in the division, and a full game behind a Pittsburgh team that lost 20-0 against the Brewers - who the Cubs face in their next series. 

Clearly the Cubs' rotation isn't cause to all of the woes at Wrigley in 2010 Chicago's lineup is ranked tenth in the National League with a .251 batting average and 13th in runs scored with 62. 

Overall, the predominate question for Jim Hendry and the Cubs' front office staff is, why would we spend $18 million on a reliever and not shop for a qualified candidate to fill the position?

The Cubs are notorious for ruining bright, young starting pitchers (Mark Prior, Kerry Wood) and may have done it again with Zambrano, and somewhere in their $147 million budget should be room for a serviceable relief man to support closer Carlos Marmol. 

With the third best payroll in Major League Baseball, one would assume that the Chicago Cubs were a perennial powerhouse in the National League.

Actually, its been quite the opposite. Fans demand more from a team with such prestige, and after over a century, I think we're ready for a championship.