The Cubs are making it clear to some of the incumbents on the pitching staff that there will be no free rides at the end of the starting rotation. If anything, it might be closer to a thrill ride at spring training to determine the fourth and fifth starting jobs.
If an already long list of potential starting candidates - including the intriguing candidacy of second-year Andrew Cashner -- didn't send that message to the likes of ``too big for my britches'' Randy Wells and Carlos Silva, then the minor-league contracts and spring training invitations to back-end-rotation veterans Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer made it crystal clear.
Looper and Wellemeyer were among 21 non-roster players invited to spring traiing by the Cubs.
Looper, 36, went 14-7 (5.22 ERA) for Milwaukee in 2009 before sitting out last season for non-injury reasons after being one of the final pitchers left on the free agent market. Wellemeyer, 32, returns to the Cubs after spending the past five seasons with four different teams, including a 3-5, 5.68 ERA stint with the San Francisco Giants last year.
Not exactly Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, but the depth at least heats up the battle this spring for the rotation jobs after Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano - a battle that also includes prospects Casey Coleman and possibly James Russell.
Among the other non-roster invited players are prized starting pitching prospects Trey McNutt (10-1 at three levels in 2010), Chris Carpenter and Jay Jackson.
Angel Guzman, coming off major shoulder surgery, and lefty relief prospect Scott Rice also were invited, along with catchers Steve Clevenger and Chris Robinson.
Top prospect Brett Jackson and returning veteran Reed Johnson head the list of five invited outfielders, also including Jim Adduci, Luis Montanez and Brad Snyder.
Seven infielders were invited, including returning veteran utility player Augie Ojeda - along with Bobby Scales, Josh Vitters, Bryan LaHair, Matt Camp, Scott Moore and Marquez Smith.