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The Silva Lining

By Brittany Feagans [brit.feagans@gmail.com]

December 18, 2009 marks an important date in Chicago Cubs history. It was this day that the Cubs said good riddance to odious outfielder Milton Bradley and welcomed struggling pitcher Carlos Silva to their team.

While the Cubs would have settled for just about anyone in order to send Bradley packing after his tumultuous season in Chicago, they inadvertently won the lottery with Carlos Silva.

Despite Silva’s unimpressive two year stint with Seattle, he has been nothing but impressive with his new ball club. So impressive, in fact, that he has risen from the bottom to become the legitimate Cubs ace. With his win over the Pirates on Monday, Silva became the first Cubs starter since 1967 to start the season with a record of 8-0.

In a year of perfect games, Silva has a perfect record.

What many Chicagoans aren’t aware of, however, is what Silva has battled through to persevere. In 2004, Silva became a pleasant surprise after he posted a record of 14-8 with the Minnesota Twins. But fast-forward four years and he would finish the 2008 Seattle Mariners season 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA, leaving people wondering what had happened.

Last year Silva’s struggles continued, and he was sidelined for much of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury, causing many fans to question his talent. Seattle seemed more than eager to dump Silva on the Cubs in exchange for the haughty Bradley.

So what changed since Silva arrived in Chicago? Was his uniform fashioned out of Superman’s cape? Certainly a perfect record in mid-June is no fluke.

While working with Larry Rothschild, Silva tweaked his delivery and focused on velocity. Silva has also worked on throwing his curve as a first-pitch strike, thus getting ahead in the count and increasing his strike out numbers. On May 29, Silva notched a career-record 11 strikeouts against the pesky Cardinals.

Perhaps the lack of pressure surrounding his performance has also played a role in his success. Cubs fans didn’t care if he contributed or not as long as Bradley was gone, and maybe these low expectations translated into motivation for the burly Venezuelan hurler. With nothing to lose, Silva had everything to prove. And prove he has.

With all the adversity and negativity he’s shone through, Carlos Silva has gone from an inconsistent, overweight bench warmer to a pitching phenomenon in his own right.

It’s too bad Silva can’t start every single game, because then the Cubs would be real contenders for the 2010 pennant.

In a clubhouse covered in clouds, the sun shines through every five games. Now if only the rest of the rotation could find the Silva lining…

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