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Marshall in line for Cubs' rotation
Cubs manager Dusty Baker's annual spring training "surprise" may have been revealed Tuesday with 23-year-old Sean Marshall providing the shock value.
The rising young left-hander with only 10 starts at the Double-A level will get an opportunity to join the club as the No. 4 starter, perhaps making his major-league debut April 9 at Wrigley Field.
Baker said Marshall's age is no factor as long as he continues to throw strikes.
"There have been a number of young guys who have come up and done quite well, especially if they have the maturity and demeanor to handle it," Baker said. "This is an opportunity for somebody to win a job."
The 6-foot-7-inch Marshall supposedly was competing with Angel Guzman and Rich Hill for the No. 5 spot. But his four no-hit innings against Oakland on Saturday and the inconsistent spring of Jerome Williams have convinced the Cubs to consider Marshall for Williams' rotation spot.
Marshall, who has not allowed a run in 101/3 innings this spring, will make his second start Friday against San Diego in Las Vegas. Guzman and Jae Kuk Ryu will start the season at Triple-A Iowa, battling with Hill for the No. 5 vacancy, which the Cubs don't need to fill until April 15.
On Tuesday, the Cubs placed rehabbing starters Kerry Wood and Mark Prior on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday.
Guzman also pitched four no-hit innings in relief on Sunday but is behind Marshall because of his shoulder problems in '04 and '05.
"Goozie's very, very close," Baker said. "You don't know if he's quite ready or not, but he's close. Certain guys need to pitch. Goozie has missed parts of three years almost, had one thing after another.
"He has the stuff. It's just a question of [whether he] should serve a little more time in his apprenticeship to get ready to help us win here."
If Williams loses his spot, he still will make the club as the long man in the bullpen because Todd Wellemeyer was traded to Florida for two low-level pitching prospects.
Suddenly, Williams' start against Arizona on Thursday may be the most important of his brief Cubs career.
In his previous five starts, Williams has an 8.00 ERA and nine walks in 18 innings.
"I have to pitch well to be in that rotation," Williams said. "The rotation is not set. It's all dependent on myself if I'm in the rotation or not."
If Williams is sent to the bullpen to join Ryan Dempster, Bob Howry, Scott Eyre and Will Ohman, the final two spots are likely to go to Michael Wuertz, who has struggled all spring, and Roberto Novoa, who returned Tuesday after missing three weeks with Valley Fever.
Like Ryu, Guzman and reliever David Aardsma, left-handers Hill and John Koronka appear Iowa-bound. Williams, 24, said he wouldn't mind being sent to the bullpen, as long as he's part of the team.
He has virtually no experience pitching out of the bullpen, however, and his first-inning problems this spring could make that scenario an iffy proposition. Williams has given up at least one run in the first inning of four of his five starts.
"You just have to go out there and concentrate from that start," Williams said. "That's what I'm trying to do right now."
With Marshall on the rise, it may be too late for Williams to state his case.