3/6 Extra bases

* Reliever James Russell, who has yet to get into a Cactus League game because of some discomfort in his left arm, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday and could be in action next week. Russell, who has appeared in more than 70 games each of the last two seasons, was going through a “dead arm” phase, manager Rick Renteria said.

* Renteria has yet to name his Opening Day starter. On Wednesday, Jeff Samardzija said he was working toward Opening Day but Renteria didn’t want the media to read anything into that.

“I don’t want to lock myself in and we still have to see how everybody is falling in and staying healthy,” he said.

Told that Samardzija said he was preparing for the March 31 opener, Renteria smiled.

“That’s good,” the manager said. “[Travis] Wood said the same thing and Jake [Arrieta] said the same thing, and everybody else is saying the same thing. They’re getting ready for Opening Day.”

* Shortstop Starlin Castro is continuing to make progress in his rehab from a mild right hamstring strain. Castro, who was injured last Sunday, was expected to be sidelined seven to 10 days. He’s been receiving treatment all day at the Cubs’ complex.

* The Cubs will play split-squad games on Friday with James McDonald getting his first Cactus League start against the Angels in Tempe and Edwin Jackson starting in Mesa against the Indians. The Cubs-Angels game is another test of the new instant replay system available to managers. However, Renteria will be in Mesa for that game.

— Carrie Muskat


Rich Hill, the Red Sox hurler whose infant son expired, once pitched for the Cubs. In fact, Chicago was the first club to bring him to the majors, if I’m not mistaken. Is a sad development.

If Travis Wood does not get Opening Day nod, this would be an injustice of not rewarding players who do their job and don’t complain about their contract in the media everyday.

If Wood doesn’t get it, I’m sure he’ll be a good teammate and hope Jeff does a good job and try his best to repeat his 2013 performance anyway. Besides, rotations get mixed up all the time. All it takes is one rain out or an injury or deciding to skip someone’s turn and suddenly your Opening Day starter is following your #3 guy in the rotation. Quite frankly, I’m more interested to see who gets the #5 spot in the rotation. With Arrieta not pitching to live hitters yet, he might be behind and have to start the season on the DL or in the minors. If that’s the case, we’ll see who steps up among Villanueva, Rusin, Hendricks, or Jockish. I would say Villanueva has the edge just because of his experience, but if Hendricks and Jockish keep pitching well this spring, it will be a tough decision for Rick Renteria to make. Then again, if Arrieta comes back soon and shows no signs of being hurt, I’m guessing the slot is his to lose.

Aloha Doug-good points, even though there is a little “politics” involved, I hope Renteria and the management are thinking long term. So, if Wood is a long term candidate to stay with the Cubs along with Arrieta, maybe you give the nod to Samardzija, because he “seems” to be the type that enjoys the “hype,” if you know what I mean. If this helps Samardzija to have a good spring going into the summer and his stocks rise, great for our Cubs. I know this may sound contrarian in thinking as I would love to see Wood or Arrieta have the chance but if it will afford the Cubs an opportunity in the short run for the long run, I would be for it. As CubsTalk mentioned, Wood has been very professional about things and I think he could handle not getting the nod, knowing he will be with our Cubbies for sometime. He class and decorum I believe have not gone unseen in the organization. And to jhosk, I remember Rich Hill and hope and pray for the best for his family, that is most important. Mahalo.

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