March 2012

3/26 Cubs 2, Padres 0; Dbacks 3, Cubs 2

What went right:

Paul Maholm struck out six over five scoreless innings against the Padres in Mesa. Carlos Marmol, pitching in his first game since March 20, gave up one hit, walked one and struck out one in one inning. Bryan LaHair, who had five hits in his last six at-bats, hit a RBI double in the first. In Scottsdale, Blake DeWitt was 2-for-4 with a double while Scott Maine walked two and struck out one in one inning.

What went wrong:

Cubs missed a chance in the second when they loaded bases with two outs and Padres pitcher Tim Stauffer got Starlin Castro to fly out. Castro did draw a walk in the first, his first this spring, and doubled in the fifth.

Quotable:

“I just want to stay where I’m at. I want to stay consistent with the breaking ball. I’ve had a good spring working on that, probably more than I have normally in Spring Training, and just command. You need to have a second pitch and have command of your fastball when you break camp. I’m trying to be fresh for the start of the year.” — Kerry Wood on his spring game plan

Notable:

* The Cubs acquired right-handed reliever Shawn Camp, who was released by the Mariners on March 21. He may not be the only pitcher added before the regular season begins. The Cubs are looking at other options for the bullpen. Rafael Dolis could make the team. He picked up the save in Mesa and Dale Sveum has raved about his stuff this spring. Earlier this spring, the Cubs claimed Frankie De La Cruz off waivers from the Brewers. They may not be done as far as they try to find a workable bullpen.

Trever Miller was released on Monday, which left James Russell and Scott Maine as the only left-handed relievers still in camp. At least one of them will stay. Marmol and Kerry Wood are set, which would leave four openings. Lendy Castillo, 22, the Rule 5 pickup who is a converted shortstop, has a 3.12 ERA in eight appearances and has shown a lot of poise for a pitcher who last season was on a Class A roster in only his second season of pitching. Casey Coleman pitched well Monday against the Padres, giving up one hit and striking out two over two innings of relief. He could be the long man. So could Rodrigo Lopez if he’s not in the rotation.

* 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.

Up next:

Matt Garza will make his fifth spring start on Tuesday when the Cubs travel to Goodyear to face the Reds. Garza did not give up an earned run over five innings in his last outing, and has eight strikeouts over 12 1/3 innings. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com

– Carrie Muskat

3/26 Wood doing OK on his schedule

Kerry Wood was scheduled to pitch on Saturday and will have at least one more tune-up before the regular season starts. That’s all the Cubs right-hander apparently needs.

“I know what I need to get ready,” Wood said Monday. “We talked and the number was eight to 10 innings before camp started. I’ve done plenty of throwing. It’s just getting comfortable with secondary pitches.”

Last year, Wood totaled nine innings in nine Cactus League games and in the last six years, has pitched in as many as 12 2/3 innings in ’08 when he was the team’s closer. But this spring, the team decided to slow things down. So far, he’s appeared in four games for a total of 3 1/3 innings. The only time Wood has thrown less than six innings in Spring Training in the last six years was in 2007 when he reached five, then was shutdown and began the season on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, and also in 2010 when he suffered a strained right lat after two innings in two games.

“I really just slowed it down,” Wood said of this spring. “I got off to such a fast start and I wanted to time it so we’re ready to roll when the season starts. I’ve got three, or four outings planned down the stretch and I’ll be ready for Opening Day.”

He did have some back spasms but that was before the Cactus League season began.

“I just want to stay where I’m at,” Wood said. “I want to stay consistent with the breaking ball. I’ve had a good spring working on that, probably more than I have normally in Spring Training, and just command. You need to have a second pitch and have command of your fastball when you break camp. I’m trying to be fresh for the start of the year.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/26 Cubs release Miller

The Cubs released left-hander Trever Miller, who had a 5.40 ERA in eight Cactus League games. Miller, 38, had signed as a free agent in January. He has pitched for eight different teams, including the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Red Sox last year. This spring, he gave up five earned runs on seven hits over 8 1/3 innings, and all of those runs came in one outing, March 17, against the Rangers. With the move, Scott Maine and James Russell are the only left-handed relievers still in camp. The Cubs spring roster was at 40.

– Carrie Muskat

3/26 Instead of Japan, Camp comes to Mesa

The Cubs added another arm to the bullpen mix on Monday, signing right-hander Shawn Camp to a Minor League deal. He was in the Mariners camp this spring and released on March 21, right before Seattle was headed to Japan to play. Camp had his suitcase packed and was ready to go when he got the news. Last season, he appeared in 67 games with the Blue Jays and compiled a 4.21 ERA. In 2010, he had a 2.99 ERA in 70 games with Toronto. Camp has a career 4.40 ERA, and has pitched for the Royals, Rays and Blue Jays.

“I was a little surprised,” Camp said about being released. “I was having a good spring, came in on a Major League deal. They decided to go in a different direction. They decided to go with youth. For me, it was kind of a shock. To tell you the truth, it doesn’t surprise me.

“I’m glad to be here,” Camp said. “I played for Dale [Sveum] in the Minor Leagues. He’s a great manager.”

He is well aware there are openings in the Cubs bullpen.

“I’ll just come in and do what I do,” he said. “I can only worry about what I can control. The most important part is I just want to pitch.”

In seven games this spring, he’s given up two runs on eight hits and three walks over 8 1/3 innings for a 2.16 ERA with six strikeouts.

– Carrie Muskat

3/26 Cubs sign RHP Camp

The Cubs had a new reliever in spring camp on Monday, right-handed pitcher Shawn Camp. He was in the Mariners camp and about to go to Japan on their trip but released on March 21. He signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs. Last season, he appeared in 67 games with the Blue Jays, compiling a 4.21 ERA. In 2010, he had a 2.99 ERA in 70 games with Toronto. Camp has pitched for the Royals, Rays and Blue Jays and has a career 4.40 ERA.

– Carrie Muskat 

3/25 Cubs 6, Indians 2

What went right:

Alfonso Soriano belted his sixth spring homer, a two-run shot in the seventh, which is tops in the Cactus League. Joe Mather had two hits, both doubles, and made a great leaping catch of Asdrubal Cabrera’s fly ball to center, and appears close to locking up a spot on the bench. Bryan LaHair had two hits, and now is 5-for-6 in his last two games.

What went wrong:

The first three batters Rodrigo Lopez faced reached base and two scored. Otherwise, he settled down, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings.

Quotable:

“I’ve probably lost more sleep over our batting order than anything as far as camp’s gone. The last week might have something to do with that lineup. It’s who’s swinging good, what’s going on, who steps up power-wise. It’s just kind of a funny lineup where we don’t have that guy, this guy, that second hitter, that leadoff guy, that third hitter. It’s one of those things where it’s going to be four days from now where we sit down and say, this is what it’s going to be Opening Day.” — Cubs manager Dale Sveum

Injury report:

* Carlos Marmol, who has not pitched since he came out of Tuesday’s game with cramps in his right hand, was expected to appear in a game on Monday.

* Kerry Wood has not pitched since last Sunday but Dale Sveum said Sunday, “There’s no reason for any extra workload.”

Noteworthy:

* Andy Sonnanstine, outrighted to the Cubs’ Triple-A roster last Thursday, has rejected the assignment and is a free agent. Sonnanstine, 29, appeared in four Cactus League games, giving up eight runs on 13 hits and three walks over five innings. Last season, the right-hander was 0-2 with a 5.55 ERA in 15 games (four starts) with the Rays.

* Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster gave up six runs on eight hits and one walk over five innings in a Minor League game Sunday at Fitch Park. Dempster threw 88 pitches and struck out four. He’ll open the season for the Cubs April 5 against the Nationals.

Up next:

The Cubs play their last split-squad games on Monday. Paul Maholm will face the Padres in Mesa at HoHoKam Park while Jay Jackson will start the road game against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale. Maholm has been tabbed as the fifth starter. He was slowed this spring by the flu. David DeJesus, Marlon Byrd and Dave Sappelt will make up the outfield against the Diamondbacks, while Bryan LaHair, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney will be in Mesa. The game in Mesa will be broadcast on Cubs.com

– Carrie Muskat

3/25 Marmol, Wood updates

Carlos Marmol, pulled from a game last week because of cramps in his right hand, was scheduled to throw on Monday for the Cubs, while his main set-up pitcher, Kerry Wood, will get likely get two more appearances in spring games before the regular season begins. Marmol was lifted from a game last Tuesday and underwent an MRI, which revealed no significant nerve injury. The Cubs closer felt some tightness in his neck and shoulders as well. Wood had some back problems early in spring, pitched in four games and has not appeared in a game since March 18.

“There’s no reason for any extra workload,” Dale Sveum said Sunday about Wood.

The light workload was apparently planned before Spring Training began, Sveum said. Wood also has not had any side sessions. Sveum said the right-hander had no other physical problems.

– Carrie Muskat

3/25 Cubs lineup vs Indians

Starlin Castro, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Saturday, is back at shortstop and Alfonso Soriano is the DH in the Cubs game Sunday against the Indians in Goodyear. Rodrigo Lopez, hoping to secure a spot in either the rotation or bullpen, will make the start. Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster will get his work in at Fitch Park on Sunday, pitching in a Minor League game. Here’s the lineup against the Indians:

RF Johnson

LF DeWitt

SS Castro

DH Soriano

1B LaHair

C Soto

3B Stewart

2B Baker

CF Mather

– Carrie Muskat

3/24 Padres 5, Cubs 1

What went right:

Alfonso Soriano doubled and scored on Darwin Barney’s sacrifice fly in 5-1 loss to Padres. Travis Wood had his longest spring outing and was much improved. Randy Wells did well in relief and was expected to start in his next turn.

What went wrong:

Wood exited with two on and two outs in the fourth and Will Venable, the first batter Trever Miller faced, hit a two-run double for the go-ahead runs.

Quotable:

“I’m a guy who wants to keep going, keep going, keep going and it ends up getting faster and faster and faster instead of the same pace. I just have to try to relax and take it one pitch at a time.” — Travis Wood

Injury report:

Marcos Mateo has been shutdown for at least 10 days and will have his right elbow re-examined after that. The reliever, who had been a candidate for the bullpen, is experiencing the same discomfort he had last year. Mateo was shutdown on July 5 and missed the remainder of the season in 2011. Kerry Wood has not pitched since last Sunday and apparently had some back problems. Dale Sveum said the back is not an issue.

Noteworthy:

* Chris Volstad threw 65 pitches over six innings in a Minor League game at Fitch Park, then threw another 20 pitches in the bullpen to build up arm strength. The right-hander, acquired from the Marlins in the Carlos Zambrano deal, appears to have locked up a spot in the rotation.

* The Cubs have their last split-squad games on Monday, and Paul Maholm will face the Padres in Mesa while Jay Jackson will start the road game against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale.

Up next:

On Sunday, Rodrigo Lopez will start against the Indians in Goodyear and Ryan Dempster will start in a Minor League game at Fitch Park. The game in Goodyear will be broadcast on WGN TV and WGN Radio. The projected lineup will be: Reed Johnson in right, Blake DeWitt in left, Starlin Castro at shortstop, Soriano at DH, Bryan LaHair at first, Geovany Soto catching, Ian Stewart at third, Jeff Baker at second, and Joe Mather in center.

– Carrie Muskat

3/24 Travis Wood has better outing

Saturday was a big day for Travis Wood. The left-hander had not gone beyond 2 1/3 innings, and in his last outing against the Mariners, he served up seven runs on seven hits and two walks over two innings. On Saturday, he gave up three runs on five hits over 3 2/3 innings.

“We have to get him through some clean innings to get some confidence back,” Dale Sveum said before the game. “Once again, he threw a [heck] of a pen. He threw all his pitches really well. It’s getting him between the lines and having some clean innings and getting him confidence.”

Acquired from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal, Wood said he was finally able to slow down his tempo.

“I wanted to come in and really show them and obviously, I didn’t do that,” Wood said. “That might have had a little bit to do with it.”

It was simply a matter of relaxing.

“I’m a guy who wants to keep going, keep going, keep going and it ends up getting faster and faster and faster instead of the same pace,” Wood said. “I just have to try to relax and take it one pitch at a time.”

Is he anxious waiting for the Cubs to make a decision on the rotation?

“No,” Wood said. “They’ll make their decisions and whatever will be, will be.”

– Carrie Muskat

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