For Silva, 2010 is his first season

For Silva, 2010 is his first season

MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Silva says he feels like a rookie again.

The 30-year-old right-hander, whom the Cubs acquired from the Seattle Mariners in December for Milton Bradley, has wiped the last two seasons out of his mind. They were two years any pitcher would want to forget. He was a combined 5-18 in 36 starts, which was a shock after finishing with double-digit wins in 2004, '06 and '07 in Minnesota.

Silva now is battling not only for a spot in the Cubs rotation but also to redeem himself.

"To be honest, for me, my last two years have been very disappointing, and not for Seattle, but for myself," Silva said Friday. "It was disappointing because I worked very hard for my numbers and to have a good season.

"But here [with the Cubs], I'm coming with a clear mind. This is my first year in the big leagues, know what I mean? I don't care how long I've been in the big leagues."

Actually, his first season was 2002. Silva made his Major League debut on April 1 that year for Philadelphia. But he's decided to make a fresh start. Forget the two seasons with the Phillies or the four with the Twins, although his success in Minnesota helped him get a four-year, $48 million contract with the Mariners in December 2007.

Now, Silva joins Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall as candidates for a spot in the Cubs rotation.

"We'll just let 'em pitch," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We have a lot of split-squad games early, so we'll need some innings. There's some jobs to be won here right now, not only in the rotation but in our bullpen."

That's fine with Silva.

"I like to have competition, I like to be fighting for my job, I like to own my spot," Silva said. "When I signed the contract with Seattle, my mind changed so much. I wanted to maybe impress everybody. I wanted to show people why they paid me so much money -- I don't know why, but I think that's how I felt.

"This year, I want to put everything out of my mind and have a new start, new players. Right now, what I have in my mind is that this is my first opportunity in the big leagues, like a rookie."

He's got support in Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, whom Silva has known since the two were teenagers. Both pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League together. Silva got a few innings in this winter, totaling nine over four games. To him, it was essential.

"I hurt my shoulder last year, so I wanted to get some work done and stretch my arm and do some work," he said of his brief outings for Caribes.

The Mariners didn't want Silva to pitch in Venezuela.

"It's not an excuse [for his struggles in Seattle], but for me it's so important to pitch there," Silva said. "I think it's good for Latin guys, we get so used to pitching in winter ball."

Zambrano also has stopped pitching in Venezuela. Silva understands.

"It's hard to let your ace pitch down there," Silva said. "You don't want to take any chances."

The Cubs are taking a chance on Silva, hoping the right-hander can regain the sinker that was his money pitch with the Twins.

"I'm going to work very hard to be the pitcher I was in Minnesota," Silva said. "I can do it. I have a lot of people behind me."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.