Gorzelanny, Silva join Cubs' rotation
Samardzija and Marshall will begin season in bullpen
MESA, Ariz. -- Lou Piniella named Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs' starting rotation on Friday while Jeff Samardzija and Sean Marshall will go to the bullpen.
The Cubs also sent seven players to the Minor League camp and lefty James Russell appears in line to make the Opening Day roster in the bullpen. Piniella said Russell is in unless general manager Jim Hendry makes a trade to get an experienced right-hander for the bullpen.
All four -- Silva, Gorzelanny, Samardzija and Marshall -- made it clear they wanted to be starters. Samardzija was "disappointed" at the news, Piniella said.
"I told him [Thursday] we had a young left-hander in New York who did a pretty good job out of the bullpen and moved into the rotation and became a heck of a pitcher and that was Ron Guidry," Piniella said. "Sometimes you get success and gain experience and you make the next step.
"Unfortunately, we only have two spots," he said.
Samardzija did pitch in relief in 2008 with the Cubs and had a 2.28 ERA in 26 appearances.
"Samardzija fits in nice in the bullpen with a power arm," Piniella said. "He's done that job before and from there he can gain experience to work his way into the rotation at some time in the future."
Samardzija accepted the news.
"Obviously, we had goals that we wanted to do and set for spring," Samardzija said Friday. "It's a change of plans. I'm actually excited. It'll be good to go out there and get in the game today [in relief]. We'll work to make this 'pen the way we want it."
This spring, the Cubs didn't count on losing Angel Guzman, who is out following arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, and Jeff Gray, who has been slowed by a strained groin. Gray was sent to the Minor League camp on Friday. Samardzija said he understood the decision was made to benefit the team.
"We just want to win games," Samardzija said. "[Piniella] felt that would be the best way for me to help this team out and that's what we'll do."
Plus, Piniella told Samardzija the Guidry story. This doesn't mean he'll never start in the Majors again.
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"Again, we go back to my stubborn side," Samardzija said. "Trust me, I'm just a competitive guy and everything we talk about starting just has to do with me being a competitive guy and I get my mind set on things. You have to be like that. If you don't have that edge in professional sports or have an idea of where you want to be, then things are going to slip by.
"I just want to win a lot of baseball games. It doesn't matter what position you're playing or if you're a starter or reliever or closer, if you're winning a lot of ballgames, you're having a lot of fun."
Perhaps he'd be better off in the Minors, starting on a regular basis?
"There's way more to be learned throwing every other day in the bullpen [in the big leagues] than there is in Triple-A," Samardzija said. "I've done that."
Who would Samardzija have picked for the two spots in the rotation?
"Greg Maddux and anyone else he wanted to pick," Samardzija said.
The rotation will be tweaked again in mid-April when Ted Lilly returns. He started on Friday at Fitch Park, part of his rehab from arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder.
The Cubs' bullpen will be young.
"This will be the second year in a row that the only constant is [Carlos] Marmol," Piniella said. "It's a young bullpen and we've got some really good arms in there and it's a bullpen that has a heck of a good chance to get better as the season goes on."
Marmol will be the closer, opening the season in that role for the first time, and John Grabow and Esmailin Caridad will be the primary setup pitchers. The other pitcher who has made the bullpen is Justin Berg. Russell is going to wait and see how spring camp winds up before making any plans. He was 5-6 with a 4.03 ERA at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa last season, making 12 starts.
"I won't believe it until I'm in Atlanta where we open up," Russell said. "I'm just going about my business the same way as if I wasn't even competing for a job. I'm just trying to go out there and make a name for myself."
He did talk once to Piniella in the dugout and was told he had a good chance to stick.
"I was looking at this as good experience," Russell said. "I had a good [Arizona] Fall League and I was trying to move from that and keep working on what helped me be successful in the Fall League."
Russell is the son of Jeff Russell, who pitched for the Reds, Rangers, Athletics, Red Sox and Indians. Both are eager to see what happens.
"He's a nervous wreck every time I pitch," James said. "He's in the same boat I am -- he wants to make it just as bad as I do."
Jeff has passed on a lot of info to his son.
"I know we're different pitchers," James said. "He threw a heck of a lot harder than I do. Everything he's taught me mechanically and mentally, I'm trying to build off that and do what I can do with my stuff."
As for the bench, that's not as clear cut. The competition is down to Andres Blanco, Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld, Tyler Colvin and non-roster invitees Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar. The other players sent to the Minor League camp on Friday included Darwin Barney, Bobby Scales, Jim Adduci and Robinson Chirinos.
"Whatever we do, it's not going to be an easy decision," Piniella said. "It's good for us but probably not for the individuals."
Colvin has emerged as a strong candidate for the extra outfield spot but Piniella doesn't want him to sit on the bench. Colvin was second in the Cactus League with a .444 batting average.
"He's a good looking young player who has gotten better quickly," Piniella said. "He looks comfortable at home plate, he looks confident and he can play all three outfield positions. I like the kid a lot."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.