March 2012

3/24 Who’s starting for Cubs?

Cubs manager Dale Sveum has said he’ll name the final rotation on Wednesday but during a radio interview before Saturday’s game, he said only one spot was open. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm have locked up spots and Chris Volstad, who was to pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday, appears to be also be set. When asked by Chicago media to clarify his comments before Saturday’s game, Sveum said “there’s nothing etched in stone.”

“Thinking about it now, I said, obviously, if [Volstad] keeps throwing the ball the way he’s throwing the ball, it’ll be hard to keep him out of the rotation,” Sveum said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

The candidates for the final spot include Jeff Samardzija, Rodrigo Lopez, Randy Wells and Travis Wood.

— Carrie Muskat


3/24 Sveum on Samardzija: “He learned a lesson”

Jeff Samardzija had a rough outing on Friday but Dale Sveum said he hoped it was a good learning experience for the right-hander, who appears to have secured a spot in the rotation. Samardzija gave up seven runs on 10 hits over four innings against the Rockies. He had given up three runs on six hits over 10 innings in his three previous Cactus League outings.

“He probably learned a lesson yesterday,” Sveum said. “You can’t throw 90 percent of all your pitches 91 miles an hour and above. You better have unbelievable location if you do that. Obviously, his location was not so good and up in the zone. It doesn’t matter how hard your cutter is or how hard you throw, if you’re up in the zone against big league hitters, it’s going to get hit. You’ve got to control bat speed and we really didn’t do that too well yesterday. It was hard, hard, hard, hard and the location is not there.”

Samardzija, who is challenging Travis Wood, Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad for one of two openings in the rotation, was expected to make at least two more starts this spring. Sveum has said he’ll finalize the rotation by Wednesday.

“It’s probably the best thing that happened to him, to tell you the truth, to understand that when we’re facing these big league lineups, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do this on a more consistent basis,” Sveum said of Samardzija’s outing Friday. “I’ve got to throw my slider for a strike, I’ve got to throw it for a strike early in the count, I’ve got to throw my split, I’ve got to use all my pitches. You can’t be three, four miles an hour on 90 percent of your pitches. Otherwise you have to have unbelievable location.”

— Carrie Muskat 

3/24 Kerry Wood update

Kerry Wood has not pitched since last Sunday. Dale Sveum said Saturday there are no issues and the right-hander will get a couple more outings before the team breaks camp. Wood, the Cubs primary set-up pitcher, did have some issues with his back this spring.

“The back always flares up once in a while,” Sveum said of Wood. “That’s not a concern now. He’s fine.”

— Carrie Muskat 

3/24 Cubs lineup vs Padres

Darwin Barney is back at shortstop as Starlin Castro gets the day off. After all, it’s his 22nd birthday. Travis Wood will start at HoHoKam Park against the Padres and be followed by Randy Wells. Chris Volstad is slated to pitch at Fitch Park in a Minor League game. Here’s the lineup:

RF DeJesus

CF Byrd

2B DeWitt

LF Soriano

3B Baker

SS Barney

1B Mather

C Castillo

P T. Wood

— Carrie Muskat

3/24 Mateo update

Cubs reliever Marcos Mateo has been told to shutdown and rest for at least 10 days and then have his right elbow re-examined. He underwent an MRI after he was pulled from Thursday’s game in Surprise. Mateo said Saturday that the discomfort is similar to what he felt last season. He was shutdown last July 5 because of right elbow soreness, and missed the rest of the season.

— Carrie Muskat

3/23 Castro treats kids at Mesa hospital

Starlin Castro turns 22 on Saturday and he presented some children at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz., with a treat. On Thursday, Castro stopped by the oncology ward where he met kids who are battling cancer. He posed for photos with the children and talked to them as well. Castro gave each child an autographed Cubs hat. He then went to visit kids in the Forever Young Zone, a play area designed by former NFL quarterback Steve Young, and played games with the kids. Castro played Wii with one patient and taught a 2-year-old how to swing a baseball bat.

— Carrie Muskat

3/23 Cubs 10, Rockies 8

What went right:

Geovany Soto was 3-for-3 with a pair of two-run homers and a RBI single. Bryan LaHair was 3-for-3 with a walk. Casey Coleman gives up one unearned run on two hits over three innings in relief.

What went wrong:

Jeff Samardzija was roughed up in the second inning, giving up four runs on five hits. His final line was seven runs on 10 hits over four innings and he did get credit for the win.


“He’s probably as good a young player — I’m in my ninth year coaching in the big leagues and he’s the best young player I’ve seen in Major League camp. I’ve seen some good young ones. He’s the full package. Obviously, the swing and miss is something he needs to work on and cutting down strikeouts but he brings a lot to the table for a Major League team.” — Dale Sveum on Brett Jackson, who was assigned to the Minor League camp Friday.

Injury report:

No update yet on Marcos Mateo who had to leave Thursday’s game. He walked the first batter he faced in the sixth and threw two more pitches. The Cubs medical staff was looking at his right elbow. Mateo was shutdown last year after July 5 because of elbow sorness.


* The Cubs trimmed the spring camp roster by seven on Friday. Adrian Cardenas and Anthony Rizzo were optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Five non-roster invitees were assigned to Minor League camp: Jay Jackson; Bobby Scales; Jim Adduci and Brett Jackson; and Michael Brenly.

* 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 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:

Travis Wood will make his fourth spring appearance and third start on Saturday when the Cubs play host to the Padres at HoHoKam Park in Mesa. Wood has struggled this spring, giving up 13 earned runs on 13 hits and six walks over 4 2/3 innings. Randy Wells, who has not walked a batter or given up a run over 5 2/3 innings in two Cactus League games, will follow Wood. Chris Volstad, a front runner for one of the openings in the rotation, will pitch in a game in the Minor League camp at Fitch Park on Saturday.

— Carrie Muskat

3/23 Samardzija: “All I have to do is keep pitching”

Jeff Samardzija was roughed up for more runs in one inning than he’d given up in three previous outings but the Cubs right-hander blamed mental mistakes and said he’ll learned from it. Samardzija had given up three runs on six hits over 10 innings in his three previous Cactus League outings but the Rockies topped that in the second on Friday. Chris Nelson led off with a home run and the Rockies loaded the bases on three singles, two of them infield hits. Carlos Gonzalez then cleared the bases with a double to take a 5-3 lead.

“The ball was up all day,” Samardzija said. “Against this team, they’re pretty free swinging and I’m a power pitcher. If I’m down in the zone, it turns into quick outs. If not, you see a cutter there, it gets fisted out, it gets over second base, things like that. Those balls are down, they’re ground balls and you’re moving on. I need to make a quicker adjustment. It’s just a couple pitches here or there to improve on.”

Samardzija, a strong candidate for one of the vacancies in the Cubs rotation, settled down in the third and retired the side in order.

“It felt great to do that and apply what I needed to do, come out and pound the zone with my fastball and be aggressive,” he said.

Dale Sveum named Ryan Dempster the Opening Day starter on Friday. Matt Garza and Paul Maholm also have secured spots in the rotation. What does Samardzija have to do?

“All I have to do is keep pitching,” Samardzija said. “I’m very happy with how things are going and how I’m pitching and I’m just going to keep throwing and they’ll make the decision when they make the decision.”

Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad are making it tough to relax, too. They also are battling for those spots.

“You need to keep showing them that you’re out there improving and getting ready for the season,” Samardzija said.

— Carrie Muskat

3/23 Cubs pitching probables

Looking ahead to Cubs pitching matchups, Travis Wood will start Saturday against the Padres in Mesa and be followed by Randy Wells. Chris Volstad will pitch in a game in the Minor League camp on Saturday as well. 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 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.

— Carrie Muskat

3/23 Rizzo sent to Minors

Anthony Rizzo was batting .364 in Spring Training with two homers but his path to the big leagues is blocked by Bryan LaHair. On Friday, Rizzo was assigned to the Cubs’ Minor League camp.

For Rizzo to have success this spring is huge, especially after he batted .141 in 49 games with the Padres last season.

“I think right now he’s bubbling with confidence and it’ll carry over there,” Dale Sveum said.

“People who know me, and know about last year, everyone is going to write me off — ‘Oh, he can’t hit,'” Rizzo said. “People who know me know what happened was a bad thing. I’m not too worried about it and I’m just happy to be up here back on the field in the big league atmosphere. It was a good experience.”

A left-handed batter, he went 5-for-10 against lefty pitching, which was encouraging.

“My approach is getting there,” he said.

Sveum and GM Jed Hoyer had made it clear they were committed to LaHair as the Cubs first baseman and Rizzo would likely open in the Minor Leagues.

“Nothing’s concrete in this business,” Rizzo said. “Last year, I was the future first baseman for the Padres and now I’m the future first baseman for the Cubs. I can’t control if I go down and hit 1.000, 40 home runs — who knows what’s going to happen? I’m going to go down and work hard and prepare myself for the next step.

“Unfortunately, I got sent down but in the big picture, this is probably a little hiccup in the road,” he said.

This is Rizzo’s third team. He was drafted by the Red Sox, traded to the Padres, and then dealt to the Cubs.

“I came in and I wanted to impress everyone,” Rizzo said. “It’s a new organization again. Everyone hears about you and sees a little video. I feel really good about everything and just want to keep building.”

— Carrie Muskat