By Matt Snyder
Cubs starting pitcher Randy Wells made his first start in 2011, but then was sent to the disabled list with a forearm injury and has been there ever since. Tuesday, though, he'll make a big step in his return to the big-league mound. He is expected to make a minor-league rehab start. (CSNChicago.com via Twitter) It's pretty reasonable to expect two or three starts before he's ready to rejoin the Cubs, but that still has him up before the end of the month.
Normally, getting a No. 4 starting pitcher back would be good news, but not great news. This is even better than great news for the Cubs. A cursory glance at the standings shows the Cubs 16-20 and five games out of first place already in the NL Central. But consider that Wells and No. 5 starter Andrew Cashner both had sparkling debuts to the 2011 season and have since been on the disabled list. Further consider that, in their place, Casey Coleman and James Russell have gone 1-7 with a 8.16 ERA in 10 starts. The Cubs have lost all four games Russell started and four of the six games Coleman has started. If Wells and Cashner had been healthy all season, it's reasonable to say the Cubs go at least 5-5 in those 10 games, if not better -- not to mention the residual effect a less-stressed bullpen would have in the other games.
Wells, 28, worked six innings and allowed only one run while striking out six and picking up the win in his only start of the season. He finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 before a down season in 2010.
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