Consider Randy Wells for a minute. And then consider the Cubs' rotation for 2010.
``I don't know where we'd be without him,'' teammate Milton Bradley said after Wells beat Houston tonight to become the franchise's first rookie since Kerry Wood in '98 to win 10 games.
Wells (10-7, 2.90) is a converted catcher who languished in the minors until the Toronto Blue Jays made him a Rule 5 pick before last season - then returned him to the Cubs when they didn't think he was worth keeping on their 25-man roster.
He eventually made his Cubs debut last September, pitching 4 1/3 hitless innings until a stress fracture was discovered in his pitching arm and he was shut down.
Talk about tough.
Here, by the way, are the other pitchers who have won 10 games for the Cubs as rookies over the past 40 seasons:
Burt Hooton, 1972 (11 wins)
Rick Reuschel, 1972 (10)
Mike Harkey, 1990 (12)
Geremi Gonzalez, 1997 (11)
And Wood, 1998 (13)
With six more starts projected, Wells has a chance to surpass all of them.
He doesn't try to do anything fancy, doesn't have Wood fastball or a Marmol slider, says he understands how to be successful pitching in part because he knows how hard it is to hit from his catching days, and has three more wins in one fewer start than your Opening Day starter, the Z man.
``We've been impressed with him,'' said Lou after the game. ``He's a serious-minded kid that goes about his business and competes really well.''
And you can lock him into next April's rotation, along with the toughest competitor on the team, Ted Lilly, and the guy who's leadership and $52 million contract aren't going anywhere, Ryan Dempster.
That leaves free agent Rich Harden, enigmatic, $91.5 million, no-trade-owning Carlos Zambrano and depth lefties Sean Marshall and Tom Gorzelanny to fill the rotation.
How should Ricketts and Hendry proceed with that crew? Should they implore Zambrano to waive his no trade and try to trade him? Should they bring Harden back or let him walk? Should they give the ball back to Marshall every fifth day? Or Gorzelanny?
Or is this pool still a starter short of a championship-contender rotation?