Shaun Marcum's Shoulder and Spring Rotations

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 17: Pitcher Shaun Marcum #18 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of the spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 17, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Zack Greinke's basketball injury is the only other one that's stuck, but lately it seems like everybody in the NL Central has had to deal with a prolonged case of starting pitcher anxiety—Shaun Marcum will miss a spring start after leaving a game with shoulder tightness, and Johnny Cueto is due to miss a regular season start or two with shoulder inflammation

I'm not sure if it's happening more often than usual, exactly—I feel especially attuned to this kind of thing post-Adam-Wainwright, which might be the most accurate diagnosis—but it's clear, I think, that everyone in the division might have to deal with a thorough revision of their offseason pitching story by May. 

Such is the nature of the starting rotation in spring, where Mark Mulder is always just a few weeks away and Anthony Reyes is ready to break out after his brilliant performance in the World Series and now I'm crying, a little. In last year's NL Central the current frontrunners' rotations, circa March 2010, looked a little like this, as best as I can tell: 

St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Brad Penny, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia

The Cardinals can't complain about the actual results the rotation brought about—the five starters heading this paragraph combined for 14.8 fWAR—but the way it happened wasn't quite right. Brad Penny lasted 56 great innings before he vanished to wherever Troy Glaus had the year before, Kyle Lohse was a nightmare—I couldn't use bWAR earlier because his -2.9 totally cancels Jaime Garcia out by that measurement—and the Cardinals ended up giving 13 starts to Jeff Suppan, 12 to Jake Westbrook, eight to Blake Hawksworth, and three each to P.J. Walters and Adam Ottavino. 

And 35 to Chris Carpenter. 

This year, I guess, we at least have a little additional warning; we know already that we're dangerously near moving from SUPPçON 5 to SUPPCON 1. 

Cincinnati Reds: Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake + Edinson Volquez

This is a weird one. In Opening Day Rotation order, Aaron Harang was one of the few Reds who disappointed last year, losing a strikeout per nine innings, remaining more combustible than the average solid pitcher, and ending up on the DL for two months with back spasms. Cueto led the league in jump-kicks and had the best season of his career, cutting back on the home runs and walks. Arroyo basically had the same season he'd had the year before.

The back of the rotation was quite an experiment, but it worked out pretty well; Bailey was terrible at the start of the season but came back in August and September pitching well enough to kick the failed-prospect tag; Mike Leake got off to a great start after skipping the minor leagues entirely before wearing down at the end of the season. 

Edinson Volquez even came back after his elbow surgery/PED-suspension combo-vacation and pitched pretty well in the aggregate, though there was a midseason demotion in there somewhere. 

The Reds had to look outside their rotation for quite a few starts in 2010, thanks to Bailey and Harang's injuries and ineffectiveness, but they weren't any worse for it; Travis Wood threw 17 starts with an ERA+ of 114, Volquez was adequate immediately upon his return, and their emergency replacements—Sam LeCure, who made six starts in May and June, and Matt Maloney—were somewhat less Ottavinian than Adam Ottavino. 

The Reds have a few starters too many as things stand right now—Harang is gone, but he leaves Volquez, Arroyo, Cueto, Wood, Bailey, and Leake to fight for starts in the early going. Not to mention Aroldis Chapman, who's slated for the bullpen, because there apparently isn't a manager in the major leagues who can keep himself from doing that to outstanding pitching prospects. 

Also, Dontrelle Willis! Willis was awful last year, tragically awful, but as far as last-guys-in-the-bullpen who elicit "He's still playing?" responses from other team bloggers go he's significantly more fun than Miguel Batista. 

The Reds have plenty of depth here, but as with the Cardinals' top three it's difficult to imagine a situation in which that depth is more effective in 2011 than it was in 2010. 

Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Doug Davis, David Bush, Jeff Suppan

This is what a bad rotation looks like at the beginning of the season. Beyond the Great Gallardo and Randy Wolf, their frantic free-agent signee, the Brewers were relying on Doug Davis, who'd led the league in starts and walks the year before, David Bush, who was coming off a season in which he was pretty seriously Lohsed, and Jeff Suppan, who was rapidly demoted to the bullpen. Chris Narveson, the last remaining piece of the Larry Walker trade, did yeoman's work in Suppan's place, and the rest of the starts came from the ever-frustrating Manny Parra and Undead Chris Capuano. 

Replacing Doug Davis, David Bush, and Jeff Suppan with Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum is a little like replacing Denny Laine and Linda McCartney with John Lennon and George Harrison, but if there's one thing Adam Wainwright can teach us, besides why we should never love again, it's that rotations in March aren't just five guys long. 

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