March 2013

3/27 Castro expecting

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was headed to New York on Wednesday to be with his girlfriend, who is expecting the couple’s first child. Castro was expected to rejoin the Cubs in Houston for their final exhibition games. Castro was in the lineup for Wednesday’s game but scratched.

— Carrie Muskat

3/27 Cubs claim Moscoso

The Cubs claimed right-handed pitcher Guillermo Moscoso off waivers from the Blue Jays in their continued search for bullpen help. Moscoso is not guaranteed a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, but is an option for the pen. The in-house candidates in Cubs camp for the final bullpen job include Hisanori Takahashi and Cory Wade. 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.

Moscoso, 29, is 11-12 with a 4.16 ERA in 57 Major League appearances, including 24 starts, over four seasons with the Rangers (2009-10), Athletics (2011) and Rockies (2012). In each of the last two seasons, he made 23 big league appearances, with 21 of his 23 outings as a starter with the Athletics in 2011, and 20 of his 23 appearances as a reliever last year with the Rockies. As a starter last year, the right-hander was 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in three games, and compiled a 4.42 ERA in 20 relief appearances.

— Carrie Muskat

3/27 Cubs lineup – UPDATED

The Cubs travel to Surprise Wednesday night to face the Royals in their next to last game in Arizona. Scott Feldman will get the start. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Arizona time. Starlin Castro was scratched because he’s headed to New York to be with his girlfriend, who is expecting the couple’s first child. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF
Clevenger 3B
Rizzo 1B
Soriano DH
Hairston RF
Navarro C
Lillibridge SS
Barney 2B
Sappelt LF

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Reds 11, Cubs 1

Johnny Cueto topped Jeff Samardzija on the mound and at the plate in a showdown between two Opening Day starters on Tuesday. Todd Frazier hit a solo home run to back Cueto and and lift the Reds to an 11-1 victory over the Cubs. The game was the Cubs’ first night game at HoHoKam Stadium since March 28, 2005, and played in front of 9,388 fans. Samardzija, who will kick off the Cubs season Monday in Pittsburgh, gave up five hits over five innings, did not walk a batter, and struck out four.

“This is the last hurrah and it’s just basically getting his work in and working on what he feels he needs to work on going into Opening Day,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before the game.

Cueto singled off Samardzija with two outs in the Reds’ third, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Emmanuel Burriss’ double. Samardzija and Cueto have squared off before.

“It was definitely a good atmosphere and I’ve pitched against Johnny since High A down in Sarasota and Daytona,” Samardzija said. “We know each other pretty well. He’s a heck of a pitcher and had a heck of a year last year.”

Hisanori Takahashi, bidding for the Cubs’ final bullpen spot, struck out the side in the sixth. But Frazier connected on the first pitch leading off the seventh for his fifth spring home run.

The Reds sent 13 batters to the plate in the ninth and scored nine runs, including six off Carlos Marmol, who failed to retire any of the six batters he faced.

* Up next: The Cubs will play their penultimate game in Arizona on Wednesday night when they travel to Surprise to face the Royals under the lights. Scott Feldman, who will open the Cubs’ series in Atlanta on April 5, will get the start. Among the players scheduled to make the trip are David DeJesus, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Darwin Barney. The game, which begins at 6:05 p.m. Arizona time, will be broadcast on WGN Radio.

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Updating the roster

Infielder Alberto Gonzalez and reliever Zach Putnman were told Tuesday that they will not make the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, and the team is still monitoring the waiver wire to fill the final spots on the bench and in the bullpen.

With Putnam out of the mix, the in-house candidates for the final bullpen spot comes down to Cory Wade and Hisanori Takahashi, who was scheduled to pitch Tuesday.

“He’s been pitching really well, he’s been getting right-handers out a little easier than left-handers,” Dale Sveum said of the left-hander. “He’s very durable. We know he can pitch two, three, even four innings and get to 90 pitches. He’s valuable in a number of ways. If the game goes really smooth, you can have the possibility of two left-handers in the last three, four innings. I want him to keep throwing strikes like he has and keep doing what he’s doing.”

With Gonzalez out of contention for the bench, that leaves left-handed hitting Steve Clevenger as the only option in camp. He made the Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher, and can fill in at first or third if needed. The Cubs want another left-handed bat.

“I look at the transactions, and from what I’ve seen there hasn’t been anything that fits our needs as of now,” Sveum said.

Gonzalez may be headed to the Minor Leagues but he will travel with the Cubs to Houston for exhibition games Friday and Saturday.

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Numbers game

When the season starts, some of the Cubs players will have new uniform numbers, including manager Dale Sveum. Dioner Navarro wanted No. 30, which Travis Wood has worn since joining the team, but Wood will wear No. 37. Sveum is giving up No. 33 to pitcher Carlos Villanueva, and the Cubs manager will wear No. 4. Sveum had noticed that Villanueva had “33” on his cleats, and found out that was the pitcher’s preferred number.

No. 30 is very special to Navarro.

“It’s because my wife had a brain aneurysm on Sept. 27, and she had her surgery on Sept. 30, and they gave her a four percent chance of being alive,” Navarro said. “Ever since then, I’ve been wearing No. 30.”

When Navarro explained why No. 30 was special to Wood, the pitcher gave it up.

“He understood,” Navarro said.

By the way, Navarro’s wife is doing well and has no problems.

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Extra bases

Just in case you missed some of this from Monday:

* This will be the first season in which Nate Schierholtz is projected as an everyday player, and Cubs manager Dale Sveum hopes the right fielder doesn’t try to do too much. Schierholtz, a free agent who signed a one-year contract with the Cubs last December, has not gotten more than 335 at-bats with a team in a single season and that was in 2011 with the Giants. He boasts a .270 career batting average.

“He’s kind of working on a few different things than he has in the past,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Schierholtz, who was batting .294 this spring. “He’s having an OK camp. That’s probably what he’d tell you, too.

“His defense, his arm, the ability to hit left-handed, that’s a guy who hopefully is very consistent but he’ll probably be a little more on the streaky side,” Sveum said. “He’ll have to get used to seeing his name in the lineup every single day and not try to do too much to think maybe he’s got to do a lot to stay in that because he’s worked so hard.”

Schierholtz had spent his entire career with the Giants until last season when he was dealt to the Phillies.

* The Cubs are realistic. They know they don’t have much speed on the roster.

“Let’s get one thing straight, we don’t have a lot of base stealers, we don’t have a lot of what I call larceny guys,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “You won’t see a whole lot of that going on. We’re not going to try to trick people, we’re going to have to do it by being smart on the bases and being aggressive.”

Tony Campana led the Cubs last season with 30 steals, but he’s now with the Diamondbacks. Next in line was Starlin Castro, who had 25 steals.

* Every morning, David DeJesus, Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney put their “Breakfast” shirts on, and go to work. The three have been following a rigorous training program this spring that they hope keeps them strong during the 162-game season. The players had shirts made up that say “breakfast” to wear and help motivate them.

“My trainer sent me something, [Rizzo’s] trainer sent me something and we mix and match,” DeJesus said of the workout. “We make sure everything is incorporated. It’s core, and we want to build some strength but not go crazy. We’re not going to be body builders but want to stay strong.

“People have this myth they want to maintain, maintain, but as the season goes on, it gets hot and maintaining levels go down,” DeJesus said. “You want to increase, but very minimal increase weight. You want to stay strong.”

So far, no plans for t-shirts that say “lunch” or “dinner.”

* On Wednesday, the Cubs play another night game, this time in Surprise against the Royals. Scott Feldman gets the start against James Shields. First pitch is 6:05 p.m. Arizona time and the game will be broadcast on WGN Radio.

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Cubs lineup

The Cubs play host to the Reds Tuesday night in the penultimate game at HoHoKam Stadium. The last game will be Thursday, starting at 12:05 p.m. vs. the Mariners. Here’s tonight’s starting lineup:

DeJesus CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Sappelt LF
Schierholtz RF
Castillo C
Valbuena 3B
Barney 2B
Samardzija P

— Carrie Muskat

3/25 Shawon Dunston & Shawon Jr.


(Photo courtesy of Larry Woolis)

3/25 Father and son


Shawon Dunston and his son, Shawon Jr., pose at HoHoKam before the Cubs-Giants game.