3/2 Big spring for Wood, Jackson

No one has to say anything to Travis Wood or Edwin Jackson. Both pitchers know how important this spring is.

Manager Joe Maddon said Monday that Kyle Hendricks had secured the No. 4 spot in the Cubs rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel. That leaves Wood and Jackson vying for one opening along with Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner and Tsuyoshi Wada.

“Everybody understands what’s going on here,” Maddon said Monday. “There are no dummies.”

Maddon also is quick to point out that things change. A lot can happen between the start of Cactus League games Thursday and the end of camp.

“They’re very competitive and the fact we have a lot of folks for some really narrow choices, it’s going to be an interesting spring,” Maddon said. “I know that competition normally brings out the best in everyone.”

Wood, who will start Thursday against the Athletics in the Cactus League opener, compiled a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts last season after a 3.11 ERA in 32 starts in 2013. Jackson, who has a 5.58 ERA and 14-33 record in two seasons with the Cubs, will make his first spring start Monday against the Padres.

Maddon has been honest with the players about where they stand.

“The line I like is that, I’m not going to lie to you,” Maddon said. “If I tell you the truth, you might be upset with me for about a week or two but then you’re going to be OK. But if I lie to you, you’re going to hate me forever. If you shoot somebody between the eyes honestly, they might leave the room upset, they might slam the door, they might drive out of the parking lot quick, they might go home and hopefully not hit their dog. Eventually, they come back because you told them the truth. Every professional person I’ve ever been around really appreciates that.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/2 Cactus League rotation

The Cubs open the Spring Training schedule with split squad games Thursday. Travis Wood will face the Athletics in Mesa, while Jacob Turner will start against the Giants in Scottsdale on Thursday.

Jon Lester will make his Cubs debut Friday against the Reds. On Saturday, Jason Hammel and Felix Doubront will pitch against the Rockies, and Jake Arrieta will go Sunday against the Rangers. Edwin Jackson and Kyle Hendricks will pitch Monday against the Padres.

Lester, Arrieta and Hammel are set for the rotation, and Maddon indicated Monday that Hendricks also appears to have locked the No. 4 spot. That leaves several pitchers battling for one opening, including Jackson and Wood. Maddon did add that things can change between now and the end of Spring Training.

“The competition around here is unbelievable on so many different levels,” Maddon said.

– Carrie Muskat

3/2 Lester to start Opening Night

Manager Joe Maddon made it official Monday: Jon Lester will start Opening Night, April 5, for the Cubs against the Cardinals.

Early in camp, Maddon indicated it was fairly obvious that Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract in December, would kick off the Cubs season. But he wanted to talk to the left-hander first.

“I talked to Jon,” Maddon said Monday. “Jon will start Opening Night.”

Lester will make his first Cactus League start Friday against the Reds at Sloan Park.

The Cubs open the Spring Training schedule with split squad games Thursday. Travis Wood will face the Athletics in Mesa, while Jacob Turner will start against the Giants in Scottsdale. After Lester’s start Friday, Jason Hammel and Felix Doubront will pitch Saturday against the Rockies, and Jake Arrieta will go Sunday against the Rangers. Edwin Jackson and Kyle Hendricks will pitch Monday against the Padres.

Lester, Arrieta and Hammel are set for the rotation, and Maddon indicated Monday that Hendricks also appears to have locked the No. 4 spot. That leaves several pitchers battling for one opening, including Jackson and Wood. Maddon did add that things can change between now and the end of Spring Training.

“The competition around here is unbelievable on so many different levels,” Maddon said.

– Carrie Muskat

3/2 Facebook

I’ve created a Facebook page (CarrieMuskatMLB) where I post stories and photos about the Cubs. Please, no friend requests, but if you’re a Facebook fan, check it out.

— Carrie Muskat

3/2 Future Cubs

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Here are Cubs prospects Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez, who are taking part in a Minor League mini camp. Keep an eye on these two.

3/2 Smile

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Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel signs a Twitter page during photo day Monday.

3/2 Photo day

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Monday was photo day at the Cubs spring complex, which means players, coaches and manager Joe Maddon go from station to station to smile, pose, and answer questions. Here’s Maddon.

3/2 Monday’s schedule

Because of the rain in Mesa, the Cubs will do their drills in the batting cages, and fans won’t be able to see any of the workout.

Remember, Cactus League games begin Thursday with split squad games. The Cubs play host to the Athletics at Sloan Park in Mesa and will send half the team to Scottsdale to face the Giants.

3/1 Extra bases: Bryant, the varsity and more

* Kris Bryant has impressed Cubs manager Joe Maddon so far this spring.

“He’s solid, he’s motivated,” Maddon said Sunday of the Cubs’ top prospect. “He’s got a really nice way about him. He’s really good, he knows he’s really good but he carries that very well. I like that. False humility doesn’t do anything. It’s kind of a worthless quality. I think his humility is sincere but he also knows that he’s good.”

After batting .325, hitting 43 home runs and driving in 110 runs at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, Bryant is very close to getting to the big leagues. Will the third baseman be ready for the Cubs on Opening Day?

“Somewhere,” Maddon said, smiling. “There’s all kinds of Opening Days.”

* Part of Sunday’s drills included work on rundown plays. They will do so at least two more times this spring, Maddon said.

“Today was just a basic, ‘Let’s talk about the concepts and principles behind it,'” Maddon said. “They’ve heard it a thousand times. I promise you most of them have forgotten about it. You bring out the runners with high energy and that’s how you really see it and the weaknesses exposed.”

* Cubs pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice on Monday include Felix Doubront, Eric Jokisch, Hector Rondon, Zac Rosscup, Brian Schlitter, Pedro Strop and Drake Britton. Several of them will do so at Sloan Park, where the Cubs projected regular lineup took batting practice on Sunday.

“I like the varsity in the stadium,” Maddon said. “The varsity has earned the right to be in the stadium. The JV’s are trying to get to the varsity field. I like that. I’m a capitalist even when it comes to learning how to become a baseball player. I’m not into socialism or communism.”

* Daniel Bard, who has not pitched in the big leagues since 2013, threw a bullpen early Sunday. Bard is trying to comeback from undergoing Thoracic outlet syndrome in January 2014.

* The Cubs, who open the Cactus League season with split squad games on Thursday, will not play an intrasquad game.

* Former Cubs pitching coach Dick Pole was in Mesa Sunday. Pole, who started coaching in the Cubs organization in 1983 and joined the big league staff in 1988, was in Arizona to attend the funeral service for Wendell Kim, who passed away recently. Kim was the Cubs’ third base coach in 2003-04.

– Carrie Muskat

3/1 Montero ready to go

If he could figure out a way, Miguel Montero would probably start all 162 games but the Cubs catcher knows that’s not going to happen.

Montero, 31, ranked third among all catchers last season in starts with 130, trailing only the the Royals’ Salvador Perez and the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy. But Montero also batted .243. Would more rest have helped him stay fresh?

“I think the results of how you’re playing as a team will dictate how you feel,” Montero said. “You go to the playoffs, you’re never tired. Your adrenaline goes so fast. You don’t have time to think about, ‘Oh, I’ve been catching 140 games.’ Your mindset is, ‘Let’s go.'”

Manager Joe Maddon says Montero is one of those catchers who could probably play every day but that’s not going to happen.

“It won’t be 162,” Maddon said, “but we’ll talk and try to figure out a nice little program to keep him on top of his game and provide that opportunity for other guys to play, too.”

The Cubs also have catchers David Ross and Welington Castillo on the roster.

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