Tonight's Five Winless Starters Grateful For Your Prayers

Zeroes are good when you're throwing them. Zeroes are bad when you're winning them. As much as we might eschew old-fashioned wins in our oh-so-modern analysis, it's still a bit jarring to look at the evening slate's starting pitchers and see five of them still looking for their first wins in 2011. Or if not jarring ... hopeful, right? Don't we all wake every morning winless, and hoping to get off the schneid at some point in the course of our day?

Or maybe that's just me, once again revealing far too much about the demons that torment me to within an inch of my life.

Just kidding. I'm perfectly well-adjusted and content with my lot in life. Really. Promise. Just like these five pitchers, who might be placed on Suicide Watch if they don't win tonight ...

Chris Jakubauskas, Orioles (0-0, 6.39)
Now, you might think Chris Jakubauskas is some fresh-faced prospect, considering that you don't remember seeing his name before (and with a name like Chris, you would remember if you'd seen it).

Chris Jakubauskas is 32 years old, going on 33. He debuted with the Mariners in 2009, when he was 30. He's got a 5.59 ERA as a major leaguer, but (it should be said, in fairness) a 3.36 ERA as a Triple-A'er. He's pitched in the independent Frontier League, the independent Golden Baseball League, and the independent American Association. Frankly, it's almost a full-blown Miracle that Chris Jakubauskas is pitching professionally at this point in his life. Let alone starting a game for an actually Major League Baseball franchise. Last year, he pitched for the Pirates. Not for long. His debut with Pittsburgh lasted for 12 pitches, with Pitch No. 12 resulting in a Lance Berkman line drive that caromed off his skull and essentially ended his season. This year, he's got a sparkling 6.39 ERA in five relief appearances with the Orioles.

Thanks to off-days, the Orioles can get by with four starters for most of this month. But they need a No. 5 Tuesday night. And with both Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen exiled to Triple-A, somebody has to start tonight. And if somebody has to start, you want him starting against the pathetically anemic Athletics. Don't count out The JakMan. Those Frontier League guys could hit a little, too.

Doug Davis, Cubs (0-4, 5.95)
Okay, so Doug Davis wasn't exactly supposed to save the Chicago Cubs. But given what they'd been getting from the back end of their rotation this season, the veteran Davis was supposed to at least stabilize the situation. After all, Davis did pitch effectively in his two minor-league rehab starts.

With the Cubs, though? Four starts, four losses, two hammerings. Two reasons for optimism: Davis has been getting some strikeouts, and has allowed just one home run. Two reasons for pessimism: Doug Davis. Chicago Cubs.

And that's just in general. Tonight he's pitching in Cincinnati, and the Reds lead the National League in scoring. Good luck with that, Soul Brother.

Brad Hand, Marlins (0-0, 0.00)
Yes, those numbers mean that Brad Hand is making his major-league debut tonight, against the Braves. Before the season, Hand was ranked as the Marlins' No. 6 prospect. In his book, John Sickels wrote, "He'll need a full year of Double-A and probably a good amount of Triple-A time ..."

Well, he's not getting either of those. Not now, anyway. John's probably right, though. In 11 Double-A starts this season, Hand's got a 3.53 ERA and a perfectly unimpressive 1.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. You're going to throw him against Tommy Hanson and the rest of the Atlanta Braves? Hand doesn't figure to stick once Josh Johnson's ready to pitch again. And it might not take even that long.*

* And yes, whether Brad Hand lasts one game or 10 years in the majors, every time I see his name I'm going to think of this guy. It's not my fault. I grew up in the '80s.

Vin Mazzaro, Royals (0-0, 22.74)
Yeah. Twenty-two-seventy-four. The last time Vin Mazzaro pitched against Major League Baseball hitters, he gave up 14 runs. The Royals were so mad at him, they made him clean his room (i.e. locker) and they sent him to time-out (i.e. Nebraska). But he's been a good boy (i.e. won his last two starts with Omaha, allowing only three runs in 13 innings), so now he gets to play with the big kids again.

In all (or at least some) seriousness, Mazzaro's got some talent and might be a decent No. 5 starter if he could just learn to keep the $%&@# baseball in the $%&@# baseball park. If nothing else, it's nice to see him get a shot at lowering that 2011 ERA. It's just too bad he has to pitch against The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Alex Cobb, Rays (0-0, 5.91)
Cobb was supposed to give the Rays six or seven dependable starting pitchers, but so far it hasn't worked out that way. He's started twice, and walked more batters than he's struck out. There is definitely reason for optimism, though. In eight triple-A starts this spring, Cobb has a 1.14 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 10 walks. So this seems like a classic example of a rookie who just needs to learn to trust his stuff.

Tonight, Cobb faces a fairly anemic Orange County lineup. But beating Dan Haren is no small task.

So which of these notables will turn that winless frown upside down tonight?

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