March 2012

3/29 Cubs roster moves

The Cubs announced their rotation for the start of the 2012 season and it’ll be Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm. Steve Clevenger named backup catcher, and Welington Castillo among five players optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Also going to Iowa are Randy Wells, Scott Maine, Travis Wood, and Dave Sappelt. Blake Parker, Blake Lalli, Matt Tolbert and Edgar Gonzalez were assigned to the Minor League camp.

Also, Joe Mather and Blake Dewitt have been told they’ve made the Opening Day roster. Casey Coleman also was told he will be going to Iowa to start. The Cubs bullpen is still in flux and still to be determined in the final Cactus League games.

– Carrie Muskat

3/28 Samardzija looks sharp

Jeff Samardzija may have locked up a spot in the Cubs rotation. He threw six scoreless innings Wednesday against the Indians in a 2-0 Chicago victory and also showed his speed when he hit a triple.

“I feel great and obviously, we’ll see what happens, but I’m not too worried about it,” Samardzija said after the outing, in which he gave up three hits, one walk and struck out five.

It was a good effort after his last start against the Rockies when he was roughed up for seven runs on 10 hits over four innings. The Rockies had loaded the lineup with lefties in that game and so did the Indians. The difference? He threw more strikes and changed speeds. It worked.

“The last start, I was cruising through the whole spring and feeling great and I think that got to my head a little bit,” Samardzija said. “I was throwing instead of really making good pitches. Today, I slowed myself down and stepped off a couple times and took a deep breath and threw the pitch that me and [catcher Geovany Soto] felt was the best pitch.

“I think we were on the same page all day today, especially the latter three, four innings,” Samardzija said of his catcher. “I didn’t really shake him off that much. Geo and I were right where we needed to be.”

Now the question is whether Samardzija, 27, is right for the Cubs rotation. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm are set and Chris Volstad appears to have locked up the other opening. That leaves Samardzija, Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez and Travis Wood fighting for one opening. Dale Sveum met with the rest of the staff and the front office after Wednesday’s game. Expect an announcement on Thursday.

– Carrie Muskat

3/28 Cubs 2, Indians 0

What went right:

Jeff Samardzija may have secured a spot in the rotation on Wednesday. The right-hander, making his last start before the Cubs staff meets to finalize the rotation, gave up three hits and walked one over six scoreless innings while striking out five. He was tested as the Indians stacked their lineup with left-handed hitters with the exception of Russ Canzler and Aaron Cunningham. Samardzija, who has two hits in his young Major League career, also tripled to lead off the Chicago fifth but was stranded.

Bryan LaHair and Joe Mather delivered consecutive RBI singles in the sixth. LaHair now is 12-for-26 in his last seven games.

What went wrong:

Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley needed a little help on a pop up by Mather in the fourth. The ball bounced off the chairs the Cubs coaching staff sits on near the dugout but Indians catcher Carlos Santana acted as if he’d caught it, and Mather was called out. Maybe they should consider instant replay in Spring Training?

Quotable:

“I really learned a lot over the past five Spring Trainings. Being a young guy, you’ve got to come into camp like spring is the season. Unless you’ve got a six-year deal and eight years in the big leagues, nothing is for sure in camp. I didn’t take anything for granted this year. I was out here early, did the same last year, and I wanted to be ready to go for camp so I knew whatever happened, I left it all out there and was ready to go for camp.” — Jeff Samardzija

Injury report:

Marcos Mateo continues to rehab from right elbow soreness. He will not be ready for Opening Day.

This and that:

* Manager Dale Sveum and his staff met after Wednesday’s game to go over the roster. There are still 40 players in camp, including 20 pitchers. They need to get down to 25 players (12 pitchers) by Opening Day, which is one week from Thursday. Expect announcements on Thursday regarding the rotation, backup catcher. It may take a few more games to decide on the final bullpen spots.

* Kerry Wood is slated to pitch Thursday. It’s been his plan to cut back on Cactus League innings to prepare for the regular season.

Up next:

Chris Volstad will make his fourth Cactus League start on Thursday when the Cubs travel to Peoria to face the Padres. So far, Volstad has given up one run on seven hits over 10 innings and not walked a batter. He was stretched out in a Minor League outing five days ago, throwing 85 pitches. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

3/28 Chris Carpenter to have surgery

Chris Carpenter, who was sent to the Red Sox as compensation for Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, will see Dr. James Andrews on Thursday to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. Carpenter announced the news himself on Twitter. He added: “Stayin positive and prepared to work harder than ever to come back as soon as I can this season!” He had pitched in two Grapefruit League games.

– Carrie Muskat

3/28 Cubs lineup vs Indians

Jeff Samardzija has a big start on Wednesday against the Indians. The right-hander is coming off a tough outing in which he gave up seven runs on 10 hits to the Rockies. Dale Sveum said he wants to see Samardzija show command of his pitches and keep the ball down. Rodrigo Lopez faced the Indians on Sunday and did a good job of changing speeds.

“He’s got to be able to use [off-speed pitches] in all situations,” Sveum said of Samardzija. “He learned a little bit of a lesson the last time out. You don’t overpower people in the big leagues unless you have a swing and miss fastball. He needs to use his movement, he needs to pitch inside, he needs to throttle bats. That’s what good pitchers do.”

Here’s the lineup for Wednesday’s game:

Campana CF

DeWitt 2B

Castro SS

Soriano LF

Stewart 3B

Soto C

LaHair 1B

Mather RF

Samardzija P

– Carrie Muskat

3/28 Cubs to meet re: final roster

Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be among the decision makers on Wednesday as the Cubs finalize their 25-man roster.  The Cubs need to pick a backup catcher between Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, finalize the bullpen, and settle on the rotation. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm are set as starters and Chris Volstad appears to have secured a spot. Sveum would not reveal the rest of the rotation yet. Jeff Samardzija starts Wednesday against the Indians and how he does will influence the final call.

“Performance is everything,” Sveum said. “We have decisions to make tonight and part of his performance today will have something to do with those decisions.”

Randy Wells, also in the mix, will start on Sunday against the Angels and build up his pitch count. Sveum said Wells and Rodrigo Lopez also are contenders for a spot in the rotation.

“Everybody in the mix who’s here in camp,” Sveum said. “We’re just going to make our decisions tonight and see where we go with it. We’ve got to make a decision on the long man as well and that’s as much of a priority as well.”

Everyone will have a say in the meeting.

“We have 22 or 21 guys who are pretty much decided and we’ll spend hopefully not more than four hours on the other four guys,” Sveum said. “Sometimes in these meetings you go back and forth in all kind of scenarios and sometimes a guy brings up one scenario and you’re like, ‘Whoa, didn’t think of that.’ and you’ve got to cover your butt on that. You might spend 45 minutes on what are we going to do with this scenario. They’re enlightening meetings but sometimes they can take a long time, too.”

And sometimes they can get a little heated.

“Some people are attached to somebody and that means a lot but sometimes you have to put your feelings aside when it comes to these decisions and what’s best for the 25 guys in the organization,” Sveum said.

– Carrie Muskat

3/27 Cubs 7, Reds 4

What went right:

Welington Castillo, fighting for the backup catcher’s job, led off the ninth with his second spring homer, launching the ball to left center. Dave Sappelt added a three-run shot off the center field wall. Darwin Barney had three hits, including a RBI double in the third. Bryan LaHair was 3-for-5, and now is batting .309 this spring.

What went wrong:

Matt Garza had a 3-0 lead when he left the game in the fifth with two on and nobody out. New reliever Shawn Camp gave up a sacrifice fly and RBI single. Lendy Castillo, the Cubs’ Rule 5 pick, was called for a balk in the seventh, which led to a tying run. Blake Parker had a tough ninth in relief, facing seven batters.

Quotable:

“Predictions and odds are what they are. … The bottom line is when you have starting pitching like we do, you can do a lot of things if other people live up to half of their expectations during the season and you catch the ball and you’re getting timely hitting. The key to our offense is timely hitting as much as anything.” — Cubs manager Dale Sveum on preseason predictions.

Injury report:

Marcos Mateo continues to rehab from right elbow soreness. He will not be ready for Opening Day.

Notable:

* Manager Dale Sveum and his staff will meet after Wednesday’s game to go over the roster. There are still 40 players in camp, including 20 pitchers. They need to get down to 25 players (12 pitchers). Said Sveum: “We’ll get everything 95 percent finished.” Still to be determined is backup catcher (Clevenger vs. Castillo), the final bench and the bullpen. James Russell will likely be the only lefty in the ‘pen. Casey Coleman is one of the candidates for the long man role. The right-hander has been hitting 94 mph on the radar gun.

* Kerry Wood is slated to pitch Saturday. It’s been his plan to cut back on Cactus League innings to prepare for the regular season.

* First base coach Dave McKay usually takes the All-Star break off but will likely be in Kansas City on July 10 as a coach on Tony La Russa’s National League staff. McKay and La Russa have been on the same staffs for 25 years, going back to time together in Oakland. “I owe him a lot,” McKay said.

Up next:

Jeff Samardzija will make his fourth Cactus League start and fifth spring appearance on Wednesday when the Cubs play host to the Indians at HoHoKam Park in Mesa. The right-hander, hoping to secure a spot in the rotation, has struck out 11 and not walked a batter this spring over 14 innings. Expect Randy Wells to pitch at least one inning in relief. Wells will get another start on April 1. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

3/27 Garza ready to go

It may be Spring Training but that didn’t stop Matt Garza from diving after a ball onto the hard dirt in front of the Reds’ dugout on Tuesday. Garza was backing up on a play in the second inning. He’s got the cuts on his arm to show for his effort.

“That was awesome,” Garza said. “I didn’t know where I was along the dugout. I thought I was near the stairs. I turned and said, ‘[Darn], I should’ve let that thing hit the fence.’ The dirt was hard and I got a little cut up. I’d rather do than risk a chance at giving up a couple extra runs.”

There was a runner on base at the time but, still, it’s a Cactus League game. If he did give up a run, it doesn’t count after April 5.

“It’s a game,” Garza said. “It’s like saying, ‘Don’t compete, don’t go out there and try.’ It’s a game you don’t want to lose. You want to work on stuff but at the same time, it’s your game.”

The right-hander was pulled after giving up two runs on seven hits over four-plus innings, although he left reluctantly. Cubs manager Dale Sveum came to get Garza in the fifth with two on and nobody out.

“He came out and surprised me,” Garza said. “I said, ‘What are you doing out here? It’s the fifth.’ He said, ‘You have 80 pitches.’ I said, ‘I don’t care.’ He said, ‘I do. I’ve still got to keep my job for the next copule years.’ I did not know I had that many pitches. In the third inning, I told [Alfonso Soriano], I said, ‘Hey, is it the eighth yet? I’m tired. I feel like I’ve thrown eight innings.’ It was 65 pitches into the fourth. I think next time out, I’ll try to spread them around a little more.”

He’ll get one more start in Arizona before making his season debut April 7 at Wrigley Field against the Nationals.

“I’m ready to go,” Garza said. “I’ve got one more and it’s time to fly home. I’m looking forward to that one.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/27 Roster moves

The Cubs still have 40 players in camp but manager Dale Sveum and the coaching staff will meet after Wednesday’s game to finalize the roster.

“We’ll get everything 95 percent finished,” Sveum said Tuesday.

The Cubs need to pick their backup catcher between Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, settle on the bench, and complete the bullpen. However, deciding the final relievers may not be announced Thursday. Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood are set and James Russell appears to be the only left-hander in the mix. The rest is still to be determined.

“[I want to] let people know Thursday, and that leaves five days to get to play and do things the way we’re going to to them during the season,” Sveum said.

Does that mean he’ll be closer to finalizing his lineup?

“It’ll probably be longer than that,” said Sveum, still considering the options.

– Carrie Muskat

3/27 Cubs lineup vs Reds

Matt Garza gets the start Tuesday when the Cubs travel to Goodyear to face the Reds. Here’s the lineup:

RF DeJesus

2B Barney

LF Soriano

1B LaHair

3B Mather

CF Byrd

SS Amezaga

C Castillo

P Garza

– Carrie Muskat

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