March 2013

3/21 Dodgers 5, Cubs 4

Alex Castellanos hit a three-run home run to lift the Dodgers to a 5-4 victory Thursday over the Cubs. The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 11,118 at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium to benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Foundation. Green was 9 years old when she was killed in the 2011 Tucson shooting that critically wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Her father, John Green, is a supervisor of amateur scouts for the Dodgers, and her grandfather, Dallas Green, is the former general manager of the Cubs.

Scott Hairston singled to lead off the Chicago second and was safe at second on a throwing error by pitcher Stephen Fife, who was trying for a double play on Dave Sappelt’s grounder but threw into center field. Hairston moved up, and scored on Brent Lillibridge’s single. Castro made it 2-0 in the third with a solo home run. Lillibridge doubled to lead off the fifth and scored on Scott Feldman’s single to close to 4-3.

Feldman, who will start the fourth game of the regular season for the Cubs, gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings. He’s been hitting well this spring. But that’s not a high priority. The right-hander admits he still has work to do, and will have some time. Feldman is slotted into the No. 4 spot in the rotation and will open the Cubs’ series in Atlanta on April 5.

“I feel pretty good with three out of four of my pitches but the changeup is one I haven’t thrown enough in spring, and the ones I have thrown, they’re not game ready,” Feldman said. “It’s something I need to hammer out the last 10 days or however long I have to pitch. It’s something I have to work on a lot and get it straightened out.”

It’s tough to gauge pitchers in Arizona because the dry air makes it difficult to get a good grip on their breaking pitches. But with Matt Garza and Scott Baker sidelined because of injuries for the start of the season, Feldman becomes a key piece in the Cubs’ rotation.

He is making the transition from the American League to the National League at the plate. With two on and none out in the fifth, Feldman lined a single to left center, perfectly timed as the shortstop was shifting to cover second base. The first person Feldman looked for in the dugout? Assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, who talked to the pitcher during batting practice.

“He tried to take credit for that hit,” Feldman said of Deer. “He told me, ‘If you get a hit today, I better be the first one you look at when you’re standing at first.'”

Feldman is now 2-for-4 at the plate with one RBIs. Did Deer say anything helpful?

“He’s Rob Deer,” Feldman said. “He’s a better hitter than I am. I’ll listen to it.”

* Up next: On Friday, the Cubs travel to Maryvale to face the Brewers. Carlos Villanueva will get the start against his former team. The right-hander, who will open the season in the rotation, will be making his fifth spring start, and is hoping to bounce back from a rough outing in Las Vegas against the Rangers. Friday’s game will be broadcast on WGN TV and Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

3/21 Cubs vs Mariners

It’s a doubleheader Thursday for the Cubs. Jeff Samardzija will start against the Mariners Thursday night in Peoria. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF
Valbuena 3B
Schierholtz RF
Soriano LF
Navarro C
Baez SS
Nelson 1B
Gonzalez 2B
Samardzija P

3/21 Fighting for last spot

The Cubs have nine games remaining starting Friday, and nine pitchers fighting for one opening in the bullpen.

Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Shawn Camp are set, plus the Cubs like what they’ve seen from right-hander Hector Rondon, a Rule 5 Draft pick. Michael Bowden, who is on the 40-man roster and does not have options left, has had a strong spring and appears to have secured a spot.

“He’s had a good spring, he has a track record, he pitched very well the last two or three months he was up last year,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Bowden, who compiled a 2.95 ERA in 30 relief appearances last season with the Cubs. “He’s basically the one guy in the bullpen who can go multiple innings and that’s a huge asset to have.”

Which leaves Jaye Chapman, Rafael Dolis, Jensen Lewis, Blake Parker, Hisanori Takahashi, Casey Coleman, Drew Carpenter, Zach Putnam and Cory Wade remaining. Dolis is the only one on the list who is on the 40-man roster and the right-hander does have an option remaining. Takahashi is the only lefty in the mix.

“Realistically, there’s one relief spot open,” Sveum said.

– Carrie Muskat

3/21 Cubs vs Dodgers

The Cubs face the Dodgers in Tucson on Thursday (and a split squad will face the Mariners in Peoria Thursday night). The game in Tucson vs. the Dodgers is a fundraiser for the Christina-Taylor Green Foundation. She was the young girl killed in the tragic shooting involving Gabby Giffords. The game in Tucson will not be broadcast; WGN Radio will handle the night game vs. the Mariners. Here’s the lineup vs. the Dodgers:

Barney 2B
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Hairston LF
Sappelt CF
Castillo C
Lillibridge 3B
Bogusevic RF
Feldman P

– Carrie Muskat

3/19 Cubs 5, Rangers 4

Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run home run, Darwin Barney added a solo shot and Welington Castillo scored the tie-breaking run on a passed ball in the sixth to lift the Cubs to a 5-4 victory Tuesday over the Rangers. Chris Rusin started the game and gave up four runs over five innings. He’s expected to open the season at Triple-A Iowa but with injuries to Scott Baker and Matt Garza, Rusin could be next in line if any of the other Chicago starters are sidelined.

“I don’t ask questions,” Rusin said. “I feel if I look too much into it, I won’t be able to put the ball where I want it.”

The left-hander did get off to a rough start, but settled down and retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced. This spring, he had given up one run on eight hits over his previous 13 innings.

“I had a rough first two innings and you never want that but it happens, it’s baseball, and you just have to figure out your mistakes in the game,” Rusin said. “I was able to figure out my release point and calm down and find my location and find my fastball and keep my offspeed in and out and keep them off balance. That’s what Spring Training is for. You go out there and try to figure it out and what you need to do to get back on track.”

Rusin has definitely been tested. He held the Indians and Dodgers scoreless over eight innings in his two previous outings.

“There’s some tough lineups,” Rusin said. “I know that. I just trust my catcher and hit the mitt.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/19 Looking ahead to Thursday …

After an off day Wednesday, the Cubs will play their final split squad games on Thursday. Half of the team will go to Tucson to face the Dodgers at Kino Stadium in a fundraiser for the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation. Green was one of six people killed in a shooting Jan. 8, 2011, in Tucson at an event to benefit Gabrielle Giffords. Green was 9 years old at the time. She is the granddaughter of former Cubs executive Dallas Green. In Peoria, Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs’ Opening Day starter, will start against the Mariners Thursday night. Here are the lineups:

Cubs vs. Dodgers, Tucson
Barney 2B
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Hairston LF
Sappelt CF
Castillo C
Lillibridge 3B
Bogusevic RF
Feldman P

Cubs vs. Mariners, Peoria
DeJesus CF
Valbuena 3B
Schierholtz RF
Soriano LF
Navarro C
Baez SS
Nelson 1B
Gonzalez 2B
Samardzija P

– Carrie Muskat

3/19 Baker has setback – UPDATED

Cubs pitcher Scott Baker’s throwing program has been suspended indefinitely. Baker felt some discomfort in his right elbow after his first Cactus League start on Sunday, and underwent an MRI on Monday. The results of the test were not released, and Baker was to be examined by team orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo this weekend. There’s no timetable for Baker’s return and the extent of the injury is not known. Baker had Tommy John surgery last April, and the Cubs had hoped he would be ready by mid April this year.

“Right now, I’m chosing to be optimistic and hope for the best,” Baker said Tuesday. “Obviously, any setback of any sort is not something you like to hear but I think we’ll know more when Dr. Gryzlo gets down here and he can do a physical exam. MRIs are great and everything but you treat the patient, you don’t treat the MRI.”

On Sunday, Baker threw 23 pitches.

“It’s more disappointing for him, for a guy who’s worked that hard and did everything and really did nothing to warrant something like this, being shutdown,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Hopefully, it’s not that big a deal and he can continue. It’s just a wait and see thing now.”

This is the first setback Baker has had in his rehab.

“From talking to guys, it’s fairly uncommon not to have any setbacks,” Baker said. “Thus far I haven’t had any up until now. Is there ever a good time for a setback? Absolutely not. It is pretty common, but at the same time, it’s not fun.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/19 Stewart has setback

Third baseman Ian Stewart will open the season on the disabled list. An MRI showed a pocket of fluid in his left quad, which he had drained on Tuesday. The Cubs will see how he responds to treatment over the next several days, and then expect to have a better timetable for his progress. Stewart said he felt something in his leg during the Minor League game last Thursday, and wasn’t sure if that aggravated his left quad. There’s stil pain, and he hasn’t been on the field since. On Monday, he tried to work out.

“I just tried to run, and can’t run, can’t get through the running part,” Stewart said. “That’s really the last hurdle. I can hit, take grounders, I just can’t run.”

Is he upset, frustrated?

“I would say frustration, because I can pretty much do everything somewhat pain-free without being able to run,” Stewart said. “I know what it’s like to play through pain and that’s what’s hard about this is I can’t get through the pain because it’s just too much.”

Luis Valbuena was expected to start Opening Day, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Brent Lillibridge appears to have made the team. He’s “too valuable a commodity,” Sveum said of the versatile Lillibridge, who can play all infield positions and the outfield.

– Carrie Muskat

3/19 Cubs lineup

The Cubs play host to the Rangers on Tuesday at HoHoKam Stadium. Chris Rusin will get the start. Here’s the lineup (which you will also see Opening Day, just without the DH):

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

– Carrie Muskat

3/18 Cubs 5, Padres 2

Edwin Jackson was the first Cubs pitcher to get three at-bats in a game. He cruised through a nearly effortless outing on Monday, throwing 76 pitches over six innings in the Cubs’ 5-2 win over the Padres. Dave Sappelt hit a three-run homer to lift the Cubs.

“I’m just trying to progress as the season goes on,” Jackson said. “I’m just trying to get closer to game mode as we get closer to the end of March, and I’m just trying to keep the ball rolling in a positive direction right on into the season.”

His goal is to make his infielders work.

“It’s hard to hit a home run on the ground so you try to keep the ball down,” Jackson said.

One thing he does have to work on is packing. Jackson wore jersey No. 82, not his assigned No. 36. He forgot that one.

“I was coming out as a new person to try out,” he said, joking about the mistake. “I had my bag packed an hour before, too. The number didn’t do me too bad.”

Usually No. 82 is reserved for Minor Leaguers or non-roster invitees. Will Jackson wear it again?

“I don’t know about that,” he said.

– Carrie Muskat

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