It’s all about the pitching for rising Cubs

SHARE It’s all about the pitching for rising Cubs

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 17, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

By Toni Ginnetti

Apparently, seeing is believing when it comes to the Cubs.

‘‘They have the hitting,’’ a longtime National League Central scout said. ‘‘If they get pitching . . . ’’

That ‘‘if’’ is why the Cubs’ decision to move struggling left-hander Travis Wood to the bullpen might be a key move. How Wood fares in the bullpen likely won’t matter as much as how the man who takes his spot in the rotation — left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada — does.

The 34-year-old Wada, who was 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 starts last season and has been rehabbing a strained left groin, will start Wednesday in San Diego. But he might be in the rotation only until the Cubs can negotiate a deal for another starter.

The rotation held up well through a 6-1 homestand. The only blemish was a 3-0 loss Sunday to the Pittsburgh Pirates, despite a strong outing by right-hander Jake Arrieta (one run, five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts in seven innings).

But the pitching situation is muddled, with manager Joe Maddon acknowledging the Cubs won’t continue to carry 14 pitchers, as they did Sunday.

‘‘We’re discussing some things now to get things more balanced out,’’ he said. ‘‘The off day [Monday] will help. It’s pertinent more for the pitching, but there’s a feeling among the [team] that there’s a nice rhythm going now.’’

For his part, Wood is accepting his move to the bullpen without hard feelings.

‘‘As long as I’m here and helping the team win,’’ he said. ‘‘The routine will be a little different and I’ll have to figure that out, but I’m sure it won’t be a problem. We’re swinging the bats well and pitching well, so hopefully we can keep that together and keep winning.’’

It took a dominating performance from Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett (3-1) to stymie the Cubs. He

allowed only three hits and struck out seven in seven innings.

The Cubs added a hit each against Tony Watson and Mark Melancon, but they finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

‘‘A.J. was great today and made it tough on our guys,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘It was a great homestand, though. . . . Today was one of those games where you feel like you won

because you played well in spite of the score.’’

The Cubs’ winning streak figured to reach seven with Arrieta (4-4) on the mound — he hadn’t lost to the Pirates in five previous starts against them— but Burnett was just too good.

‘‘His command, the repetition of his delivery, and he’s definitely more focused on pitching efficiency,’’ Maddon said of Arrieta. ‘‘He was outstanding today.’’

The rotation — for now — features left-hander Jon Lester, Arrieta, right-hander Jason Hammel, right-hander Kyle Hendricks and Wada.

‘‘We’re just trying to put every-

one in a spot to be successful,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘We’re still in the process of doing things.’’

Arrieta said it is all part of the process of a season.

‘‘We’re in a situation where we have a guy coming back [from

rehab], and Travis is willing and able to take on any role they throw at him,’’ he said. ‘‘He understands the situation and he’s a professional, but he’s a guy we need to pitch well, as well as the rest of our guys.’’

In the meantime, there’s no hint of worry.

‘‘Everyone feels good,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. ‘‘The

energy in here is as high as it’s ever been. With Jon pitching [Saturday], we all felt the energy in the stadium. We’re definitely looking forward to San Diego.’’

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