Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Scott Feldman? Who knew?

The best Cubs starting pitcher the last couple times through the rotation has been .... Scott Feldman?

Yes, Scott Feldman.

I can't even find a photo of Feldman in a Cubs uniform, so you'll have to settle for this picture of him from his time in Texas. The right-hander had a strong outing against his former mates Monday, firing seven shutout innings in the Cubs' 9-2 victory over the Rangers.

In his previous start, Feldman struck out 12 and tossed his first career complete game in picking up a win against the San Diego Padres. With Monday's win, Feldman evened his record at 3-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.70.

This hot streak has come at a fortunate time for him because Matt Garza will be coming off the DL soon, and that means one of the Cubs starters is headed to the bullpen.

If decisions were made strictly on performance, Edwin Jackson would be the starter destined for a demotion. The right-hander has been the biggest North Side disappointment this side of Carlos Marmol so far this year, compiling an 0-5 record to go along with an unsightly 6.39 ERA.

But we all know these choices aren't made strictly on performance. Jackson is being paid $13 million to be the Cubs' supposed No. 2 starter. He's been a starter his whole career, and he's got three years left on his contract after this one. No way the Cubs pull the rug out from under him this early in the season.

Feldman and Carlos Villaneuva have spent their whole careers alternating between starting and relieving. It's inevitable one of the two will draw the short straw when Garza comes off the DL. Feldman has been on top of his game lately, while Villaneuva has given up four runs in each of his last two starts.

Villaneuva has pitched better than Jackson, but the realities of the situation make it likely he'll be the odd man out. Perhaps manager Dale Sveum will use Villaneuva in a short relief role when the Cubs have the lead late in games. Hey, he's a better eighth-inning option than Marmol, right?

Reed bounces back for White Sox

I liked what I saw from White Sox closer Addison Reed in the South Siders' 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals Monday.

In case you missed it Sunday, Reed was absolutely awful in blowing his first save of the season. He walked the No. 8 and No. 9 batters in the Kansas City lineup, then hung a 3-2 slider to Billy Butler, which the Royals' designated hitter deposited in the right-center field gap for a game-tying two-run double. The Sox went on to lose 6-5 in 10 innings.

Reed was right back on the hill Monday, summoned to protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the 11th inning. He had to face the best three hitters in the Kansas City lineup: Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and the aforementioned Butler. He retired them all to earn his 11th save in 12 tries this year. Reed displayed the kind of short-term memory every closer needs -- forget about yesterday, pound the strike zone, don't beat yourself. It was an impressive inning by a 24-year-old reliever who is still learning how to pitch at the big-league level.

I can make a case that Reed is the Sox team MVP this year. The club has only 13 wins in its first 30 games. Reed has one win and 11 saves, so he's played a critical role in 12 of those 13 victories.


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