2/21 Extra bases
* Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is inching closer to throwing off the mound. The right-hander, projected as one of the Cubs’ starters, has been slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder. He will have a flat ground session on Saturday, and the Cubs will decide if he’s ready to take that next step and get on the mound after that.
“We’re going to take it day by day,” Arrieta said Friday. “Every day’s been good. It’s gotten progressively better. If we stay on the same schedule, I’m optimistic I’ll be ready by Opening Day.”
Arrieta has competition for the rotation. The Cubs signed free agents Jason Hammel and James McDonald and also have lefty Chris Rusin in the mix.
* Jeff Samardzija is expected to start the Cubs’ Cactus League opener next Thursday against the Diamondbacks in the first game at the team’s new Spring Training stadium, Cubs Park. Manager Rick Renteria did not reveal the rest of his spring rotation. The Cubs will tune up for Cactus League play with an intrasquad game on Wednesday at the new stadium. Top prospects Eric Jokisch and Kyle Hendricks will start that game.
* James McDonald was happy with his live batting practice session on Friday. It’s the first time the right-hander has faced a batter in about 10 months.
“This is the first time I was throwing without thinking about my arm in a while,” said McDonald, who was limited to six games with the Pirates because of shoulder issues. “I was like, ‘OK, my arm feels good.’ It was fun to be able to get out there and throw off the mound to a hitter.”
His goal, besides staying healthy, is to be better at the end of spring than he was on Friday.
“A lot of times when you first see a batter, you speed up,” McDonald said. “You get a couple times out and you start relaxing and you’re good. The first time out, seeing batters in a while, I feel like I got a little [rushed].”
* The Cubs will be featured in three live Spring Training games on MLB Network, and the games will be available in the Chicago area. Those dates include March 12 against the Mariners at 9 p.m. CT; March 18 against the Rangers at 9 p.m. CT; and March 19 against the Rockies at 8:30 p.m. CT.
— Carrie Muskat