As the Cubs look at next year and build a rotation of ``Z's Aces,'' they'll count on right-hander Randy Wells, probably right in the middle of the rotation like they started this season.
As for Wells, he'll count on a lot more than the 8-14, 4.26 season that he finished Wednesday night with a solid seven-inning start that resulted in a 3-0 loss to the fighting-for-their-lives San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
He might have had a chance at the win - or at least avoided the loss - if not for Padres center fielder Will Venable's leaping catches in the second and third innings to rob Alfonso Soriano of a solo homer and Aramis Ramirez of a two-run shot.
``That was no fun,'' interim manager Mike Quade said. ``The first catch was good. The second catch was phenomenal.''
Phenomenal was not a word Wells used when asked to describe his up-and-down sophomore season - his first full season in the big leagues.
``Terrible,'' he said. ``Everything that I said I wanted to do coming in I didn't do. I learned a lot. That was one of the things I did do. But continually making mistakes and continually letting situations hurt you is not the way to make a long career in this game.''
But Wells did enough in his career-high 32 starts to all but assure a chance to grow within the team's rebuilding season next year - in part because there won't be a lot of money in the budget to go outside the organization to replace him or anyone else, and in larger part because of a strong finish that included a 2-1, 1.59 performance over his final three starts.
``He's going to go as far as that sinker and slider and command will take him,'' Quade said, ``and I think it's going to be a lot farther than people think.''
Despite an 0-6, 5.76 slump through May and June, he produced a 3.65 ERA in 16 starts after that - to finish second to Ryan Dempster on the team in innings 194 1/3, quality starts (17) and (unless closer Carlos Marmol overtakes him in the final four games) strikeouts (144 to Marmol's 134).
``I pitched some good games this year. I pitched some really bad games,'' he said, adding of the full season, ``I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of this season. The numbers are bad and those are what speak out and what people look at. But I think if you really look inside the numbers, I feel like I pitched pretty well and showed that I belong.''