3/1 Cubs notebook

Don’t read much into the early Cubs lineups this spring. Dale Sveum is still experimenting.

“I’ll probably have different lineups every day,” he said Thursday. “Like I told these guys, don’t look into any of the lineups that I throw out in the first week or so. I’m just getting a feel for things.”

The Cubs get started Friday with the first of two intrasquad games at HoHoKam Park, beginning at 1 p.m. MT. It’s open to the public and admission is free. Travis Wood and Randy Wells will each start. One thing Sveum hasn’t had to worry about is how hard the players are working in his first camp.

“The effort has been tremendous,” Sveum said.

* Starlin Castro, Joe Mather, Jeff Samardzija and Randy Wells advanced to the sweet 16 of the Cubs bunting tournament on Thursday.

“I’ve got Wells next — and I think we can look beyond that round,” Samardzija said, confidently.

The tourney shifts to the back field at HoHoKam as the Cubs move from the Fitch Park facilities to the stadium. Sveum will face Ryan Dempster in second round action on Friday. Other matches include Carlos Marmol vs. Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto vs. Jeff Baker and Marlon Byrd vs. David DeJesus.

* Soto, the Cubs’ regular catcher who has been sidelined with a groin injury, is making progress.

“He’s hitting a lot more, everything is coming together,” Sveum said. “He’s not having any discomfort or feeling anything in his agility. You can look for him back between [March 7-10] to play in a game.”

* Jeff Samardzija is eager to build off last season and grab one of the spots in the Cubs rotation. In the final two months of last season, the right-hander compiled a 1.26 ERA, giving up four earned runs over 28 2/3 innings. But he was pitching in relief then. Can he be a starter?

“That’s going to be the million dollar question in Spring Training,” Sveum said Thursday. “Against live hitters today, he threw the heck out of the ball and had great command, which he has every time. It’s going to be an interesting decision later this month.”

The difference is that his command is better, and he’s more aggressive with his command.

“I started bringing my cutter back in that I had two years ago when I was starting [at Triple-A] Iowa,” Samardzija said. “It’s understanding that as a starter I want these guys to put my ball in play early and I want to pitch deep in games. An emphasis on command. As a reliever, you come in and you can throw as hard as you want and get away with that but as a starter, I want low effort and get a lot of action early in the count.”

* Sveum is featured on billboards as part of a “Baseball is Better” ad campaign for the Cubs back in Chicago.

“You appreciate it but it’s not something — I’ve never had my picture on a billboard,” the new Cubs manager said. “I’m not the most fashionable guy or somebody who is going to smile and take pictures very well all the time. I’ve heard [the billboard] is OK. I’m not real comfortable with it.”

– Carrie Muskat

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