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* Jeff Samardzija will start the Cubs’ Cactus League opener but manager Rick Renteria wasn’t ready to name his Opening Day starter just yet. Samardzija, who did start Opening Day 2013, tested the mound at new Cubs Park on Monday with a brief workout. On Thursday, he’ll open the Cactus League season and Cubs Park’s first year against the Diamondbacks.
“So many things can happen over the course of the spring, I’m not going to lock myself into trying to divulge something I can’t determine what it will be in the end,” Renteria said when asked who would start March 31 when the Cubs open the 2014 season against the Pirates.
* In Cactus League action, lefty Chris Rusin will start Friday against the Angels in Tempe. On Saturday, the Cubs have a day-night doubleheader, and Travis Wood will go in the first game in Mesa against the Giants, and Edwin Jackson will start the night game against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale. Jason Hammel, who signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs earlier this month, will start Sunday against the Royals.
* There were a few problems figuring out how to get from the Cubs’ complex to the field, but so far, the team’s new spring stadium, Cubs Park, is passing all the tests. On Monday, some of the Cubs, including Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro, had a chance to take batting practice at the new ballpark, which is a short golf cart ride from the Spring Training facility. Pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood tested the mound in an early session. The only minor glitch was figuring out which door to use to gain access.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Renteria said. “Obviously, we came and saw it earlier but to have them go out there and hit, we’ll allow them to get a feel for the field.”
What did Renteria like?
“Everything,” he said. “It’s brand new, [there's] expansive seating — it’s incredible. For a Spring Training facility, that’s a big league ballpark.”
The Cubs will play a six-inning intrasquad game on Wednesday at Cubs Park starting at 1 p.m. MT. Eric Jokisch and Kyle Hendricks will start.
* There are some familiar faces in the Cubs’ Minor League mini camp, including Casey Coleman, Nick Struck, Ryan Searle, Lendy Castillo and Dae-Eun Rhee. They were asked to start their camp workouts early so they’re ready for Cactus League games if needed.
– Carrie Muskat