March 2013

3/31 Cubs Opening Day lineup

Here’s the projected Cubs lineup for Monday’s season opener against the Pirates:

CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Brent Lillibridge
RHP Jeff Samardzija

3/31 Samardzija ready to go

It’s a good thing Jeff Samardzija got some sleep Saturday night. He didn’t expect to rest too much Sunday night prior to his first Opening Day start for the Cubs.

“That’s OK,” Samardzija said after playing catch at drizzly PNC Park in preparation for the season opener on Monday against the Pirates. “I got a lot of good sleep [Saturday] night. I work on the 48-hour plan.”

The right-hander is optimistic about the Cubs’ outlook this season.

“These last few games, I’ve stuck around and watched the whole team for nine innings,” Samardzija said. “I like our depth, I like our versatility. I think we’ve got a lot of different guys who play a lot of different positions and can hit in a lot of different spots in the lineup.

“I think we have a good handful of guys who can take a game over themselves, guys like [Starlin] Castro and [Anthony] Rizzo and [Welington Castillo] and obviously, [Alfonso] Soriano. [David] DeJesus is going to do his thing at the top of the lineup. Those things really allow you to come every day with a good chance to win the ballgmae.”

The Cubs open the season with three games against the Pirates, then face the Braves in Atlanta. They need to get off to a good start, Samardzija said.

“I think it’s really important for every team — especially for this team with a lot of new guys and new camaraderie going on and everybody getting to know each other,” he said. “There’s no easier way to make that seamless transition than to win some ballgames. I think we do that, and get off on the right foot, get back home and open our home series and go from there.”

The Cubs play their home opener April 8 against the Brewers.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Final 25-man roster

Here’s the Cubs’ final 25-man roster, which will be updated on Monday when Darwin Barney goes on the disabled list. Hisanori Takahashi, who turns 38 on Tuesday, secured the last spot in the bullpen and gives the Cubs another lefty besides James Russell. In nine games this spring, including two starts, Takahashi gave up nine runs on 21 hits over 18 1/3 innings.

Steve Clevenger made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher, but will be used more as a left-handed bat off the bench. He can be valuable in a double switch, stepping in for catchers Welington Castillo or Dioner Navarro, and also sub at first base if needed. Clevenger batted .370 this spring, and was 8-for-14 against left-handed pitchers.

Here’s the Opening Day roster:

Pitchers
RHP Jeff Samardzija
RHP Edwin Jackson
LHP Travis Wood
RHP Scott Feldman
RHP Carlos Villanueva
RHP Carlos Marmol
RHP Kyuji Fujikawa
RHP Shawn Camp
LHP James Russell
RHP Michael Bowden
RHP Hector Rondon
LHP Hisanori Takahashi

Position players
1B Anthony Rizzo
2B Darwin Barney
2B/SS/3B Brent Lillibridge
SS Starlin Castro
3B Luis Valbuena
OF David DeJesus
OF Nate Schierholtz
OF Alfonso Soriano
OF Scott Hairston
OF Dave Sappelt
C Welington Castillo
C Dioner Navarro
C/IF Steve Clevenger

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Barney hurt – UPDATED

Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney was expected to miss Monday’s season opener because of a deep cut on his left knee suffered in the last exhibition game. Barney was injured when he crashed into a fence at Minute Maid Park along the right field line in the third inning on Saturday. He needed five stitches on his knee.

“That’s a bummer,” Jeff Samardzija said Sunday about losing Barney for the season opener. “Darwin’s my boy back there. Him and [shortstop Starlin Castro] up the middle, you really develop a relationship with those guys. They’re the guys you can talk to and shoot stuff off of during the game. It’s nothing we’re not used to. We can adjust to things for sure.”

Brent Lillibridge will start at second base Monday. A official announcement on whether Barney will be placed on the DL will be made Monday after the medical staff has a chance to re-evaluate him. Infielder Alberto Gonzalez did make the trip to Pittsburgh in case Barney is sidelined.

“It’s a tough break for Barney but I’ll do my job and fill in until he’s healthy and get off to a good start,” Lillibridge said Sunday.

The Cubs have had their share of injuries this spring. Pitchers Matt Garza (strained lat) and Scott Baker (strained right elbow) will open the season on the disabled list along with third baseman Ian Stewart (left quad). The Cubs already have placed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino (right elbow) on the 60-day DL.

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Simpson, Brenly released

The Cubs released pitcher Hayden Simpson and catcher Michael Brenly from their Minor League camp. Simpson, the 16th pick taken overall, was the Cubs’ first-round Draft pick in 2010, but contracted mononucleosis shortly after he signed. The right-hander, who turns 24 on May 20, made 30 starts in 56 Minor League appearances from 2011-12, getting as far as High-A Daytona last year. Overall he went 5-17 with a 6.42 ERA, 120 strikeouts and 89 walks in 161 1/3 innings. He posted an ERA of at least 5.72 at each level along the way.

The Cubs also released Brenly, the son of former team broadcaster Bob Brenly. The younger Brenly, 26, hit .227 with six home runs and 28 RBIs for Double-A Tennessee last season, his fifth since the organization took him the 43rd round of the ‘05 Draft. Bob Brenly left the Cubs this offseason to broadcast games for the D-backs, the team he managed to the 2001 World Series title.

Other Minor League players released include Brett Wallach, Casey Harman and Joseph Zeller.

The Cubs also released Dontrelle Willis, who signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs in January. He was trying to comeback after “retiring” last July. The 2003 National League Rookie of the Year made one Cactus League appearance on Feb. 25 against the Dodgers. He issued a walk, then exited with tightness in his left shoulder while facing the next batter. Originally an eighth-round pick by the Cubs in 2000, Willis won 46 games with a 3.27 ERA for the Marlins from 2003-05 but has struggled with injuries and poor performance in recent years. He last pitched in the Majors in ‘11, when he made 13 starts for the Reds, posting a 5.00 ERA.

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Cubs 6, Astros 6

Dioner Navarro hit his fifth spring home run and Darwin Barney delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth but the Cubs and Astros finished in a 6-6 tie Friday night at Minute Maid Park. Chicago had runners on first and second in the 10th but Alfonso Soriano grounded into an inning-ending double play. Edwin Jackson struck out nine over four innings but also gave up five runs in the first two innings.

* Starlin Castro did rejoin the team on Friday. He had gone to New York to be with his girlfriend for the birth of the couple’s first child.

* The Cubs outrighted right-handed pitcher Guillermo Moscoso to Triple-A Iowa, which reduced the 40-man roster to 39. Moscoso was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

* On Saturday, the Cubs close their spring exhibition schedule against the Astros, starting at 1:05 p.m. CT. Travis Wood is scheduled to start. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.

* The Cubs have 35 players in camp, including six non-roster invitees. There are 18 pitchers, four catchers, seven infielders and six outfielders. Among the roster moves to be made include placing Scott Baker, Matt Garza and Ian Stewart on the disabled list.

* The Cubs open the regular season Monday in Pittsburgh with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 p.m. CT. Jeff Samardzija will get things started against A.J. Burnett at PNC Park. The game will be broadcast on WGN TV and WGN Radio 720.

3/28 Goodbye to HoHoKam

Phoenix-20130327-00285

3/28 Cubs lineup

The Cubs say goodbye to HoHoKam Stadium on Thursday with their final game. Carlos Villanueva gets the start against the Mariners, who faced the Cubs in their first game at the stadium 17 years ago. Comcast Sports Net will televise the game or you can listen on Cubs.com.

Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF
Barney 2B
Rizzo 1B
Soriano LF
Schierholtz RF
Navarro C
Valbuena 3B
Hairston DH
Alcantara SS

– Carrie Muskat

3/27 Extra bases

* The Cubs will say goodbye to HoHoKam Stadium after Thursday’s game. The team has called the ballpark home since its first game, Feb. 28, 1997, against the Mariners. Fittingly, the Cubs will wrap up the 2013 Cactus League season against the Mariners. First pitch is scheduled for 10:05 a.m. CT. The Cubs are 132-118-13 all-time in Cactus League play at HoHoKam Stadium over 17 seasons.

Just because the big league team is leaving after Thursday’s game, it doesn’t mean HoHoKam will be dormant. The Cubs’ Minor Leaguers will play there this spring before breaking camp for their respective sites, plus the stadium will host the team’s Arizona Rookie League squad this summer. The Mesa Solar Sox also will play Arizona Fall League games at HoHoKam, starting in October.

The Athletics have signed a 20-year lease to play at HoHoKam, starting in 2015. Among the changes they will make is a new video scoreboard, wider seats, and a bigger clubhouse. The Cubs are moving to a new facility, currently being built in west Mesa at the intersection of highways 101 and 202, and scheduled to be ready for 2014 Spring Training.

* Outfielder Brett Jackson played in a Minor League game Wednesday, and got some at-bats. Jackson, sidelined with a strained right shoulder, was expected to play four or five innings on Thursday. He will open the season at Triple-A Iowa.

* Third baseman Ian Stewart expects to take batting practice on Friday. He will remain in Arizona and continue his rehab here from a sore left quad.

* The Cubs did claim right-handed pitcher Guillermo Moscoso off waivers from the Blue Jays in their continued search for bullpen help. But they won’t see the pitcher in the final exhibition games. Moscoso is not guaranteed a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, but is an option for the pen. The team did tell right-hander Cory Wade, one of the in-house candidates, that he will not make the 25-man roster. That leaves lefty Hisanori Takahashi in camp, but the Cubs are still monitoring the waiver wire.

To make room for Moscoso on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino was placed on the 60-day disabled list. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Takahashi is a non-roster invitee, and the Cubs would need to open a spot on the 40-man for him as well. The lefty has given up six earned runs on 16 hits and four walks over 15 1/3 innings this spring.

* The Cubs also have yet to finalize the position players on the roster. Steve Clevenger is in the same situation as Takahashi. He’s the last in-house candidate.

“It’s a little weird not knowing what your fate is,” said Clevenger, who made the Opening Day roster last year as a backup catcher. “I put stuff on the truck [going to Chicago]. I’m getting ready to head north, and if they tell me different, they’ll have to send it to me.

“It’s a little weird,” he said. “It’s a little nerve-racking, too. At least I’m making them make a decision rather than be already down in the Minor League camp.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/27 Sveum: No worries about Marmol

In 2004, Keith Foulke gave up 15 earned runs in nine Spring Training innings for a 15.00 ERA. Cubs manager Dale Sveum, then on the Red Sox coaching staff, called it “the worst Spring Training in the history of the game.” That year, Foulke saved 32 games for the Red Sox, and helped them win a World Series.

“That’s why you don’t put too much emphasis on Spring Training,” Sveum said Wednesday.

Which is why Sveum wasn’t too upset after Carlos Marmol’s rough outing Tuesday night against the Reds. Marmol had not given up an earned run in his seven outings before Tuesday when he failed to retire any of the six batters he faced. The right-hander was charged with three earned runs on six hits and one walk. In his seven previous outings, he had given up four hits. Marmol’s spring ERA went from 1.86 to 4.66 after the outing, which isn’t close to being Foulke-like.

“He’s been throwing strikes with his fastball,” Sveum said of Marmol. “[Tuesday], he got hit a little bit but it’s still strikes and he’s doing a pretty good job. He had four outings in a row where I think the most pitches he threw were 12.

“There’s no worries there,” he said. “It’s Spring Training, just like you don’t worry about one of your core hitters struggling in Spring Training because Opening Day is a different animal with adrenaline and focus and everything gets better.”

The Cubs do have Kyuji Fujikawa in camp. The Japanese right-hander was a closer for 12 seasons with Hanshin, and will be used to close if Marmol needs a breather. But Fujikawa isn’t taking Marmol’s job.

“Anybody can lose their job at any time during the season, but there’s one thing you don’t get caught up in — you don’t get caught up in guys’ track records in Spring Training or what’s going on in Spring Training,” Sveum said. “The adrenaline factor and all that — you don’t ever forget what [Marmol] did the last three months of the season last year.”

After the All-Star break, Marmol posted a 1.52 ERA in 30 games, and saved 12 of 13 opportunities.

– Carrie Muskat

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