Arms race

Jeff Samardzija could be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster if he wins one of the vacancies in the bullpen. Lou Piniella called Samardzija into his office Thursday morning to tell the right-hander he’s now competing for one of those openings, and not the fifth starter spot. Sean Marshall appears to have locked up that job with his solid spring.

On Wednesday, Piniella had said Samardzija would slide into Ted Lilly’s rotation spot this spring while the lefty was busy with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. That’s changed, and expect Chad Gaudin or Mitch Atkins to get a start next Tuesday, which would be Lilly’s game.

There are two spots open in the bullpen with a little more than two weeks to go. So far, Kevin Gregg, Carlos Marmol, Neal Cotts are set. Heilman would land a spot as well if he’s not a starter. Piniella didn’t want to name the others, but there are plenty of candidates, including Gaudin, Luis Vizcaino, David Patton, Randy Wells, Chad Fox, and Kevin Hart.

“We have six candidates [for the two spots] and we’ll let them compete here in the last two weeks and see who wants to grab it,” Piniella said.

— Carrie Muskat

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