Where does rookie pitcher Casey Coleman fit in the Cubs' rotation picture next year?
A lot can happen between now and then, but if the Cubs headed to spring training tomorrow with the roster they have now, Coleman would have to be considered a legitimate threat to earn a spot in the opening rotation -- ahead of Jeff Samardzija at this point, and possibly ahead of Carlos Silva or Tom Gorzelanny, depending on health, trade status and spring performance.
That's how impressive an eight-start big-league debut Coleman (4-2) made down the stretch for the Cubs, saving his best for his last start of the season, Friday in Houston -- shutting out the Astros on six hits over seven innings.
The slightly-built, third-generation big-league pitcher finishes his first stretch in the majors with a 4.11 ERA, including 3.33 in 48 2/3 innings as a starter.
``He's done excellent. He's done a heck of a job,'' interim manager Mike Quade said. ``It's ultimately about performance. I don't know how many people knew who Casey Coleman was eight weeks ago or nine weeks ago, and now he's got a special place in my heart because they know who he is now.''
Where Coleman has excelled, especially in relation to a couple others on the staff, is a poised and bulldog approach that keeps him near the strike zone and unafraid to pitch to contact or to work through adversity.
``It was awesome,'' he said of his eight-start debut that he finished off with a three-start winning streak (2.25). ``It builds a lot of confidence. It's huge for the off-season, going into spring training. It just sets you up for a new start next year, knowing you can pitch here, and gaining a lot of confidence in you, your teammates and coaches.''
And knowing that it might even lead to a big-league starting job next year.
``For sure. That's the big thing,'' he said. No matter what it is, every outing you're out there pitching for a job - no matter where it is, what team or anything like that. So you never know what an happen and you just want to go out there and do the best you can every time.''