After a one day hiatus, the preview and game thread is back. We start with some news on the medical front.
- The MRI on Starlin Castro showed some inflammation so the Cubs will rest him a little longer. It's the right move. It's early in the spring and if you don't rest it and let it heal, it can keep flaring up all season.
- Ian Stewart says he's satisfied with his progress and expects to make the team. According to Carrie Muskat, Stewart is playing catch, doing dry swings, and making progress.
- The bigger news is that Matt Garza is now expected to be out until May. Dale Sveum said there was no setback, just that he needs more time.
Opening Day Starter and Rotation
In non-injury news, Jeff Samardzija has been named the Opening Day starter. That likely sets the rotation to open the season like this...
- Jeff Samardzija
- Edwin Jackson
- Scott Feldman
- Travis Wood
- Carlos Villanueva
Looks like the depth is already paying off as the Cubs will be going down to the "7th starter" to open the season. It also means an open spot in the bullpen. We thought their might be two to open the season and it appears Hector Rondon has earned a job. Despite a poor outing in his last appearance, Michael Bowden has the inside track for another spot.
That leaves at least one spot open. It could go to a lefty such as Chris Rusin or Brooks Raley. Both pitchers have an additional advantage in that they are already on the 40 man roster, though Raley has really struggled. Non-roster lefty Hisnori Takahashi is having a solid spring and is in the mix.
From the right side, non-roster RHPs Cory Wade, Zach Putnam, Casey Coleman, and Blake Parker are off to good starts.
- Dan Vogelbach has stayed in Mesa with the team where one Cubs squad will play the Brewers
- Albert Almora will be traveling with the team to Tempe to play the Angels. Neither are starting but both could see action.
- Javier Baez starts at SS vs. the Brewers
- Brett Jackson also gets the starting nod against the Brewers. He'll be in LF today.
- Valbuena 3B
- Barney 2B
- Rizzo 1B
- Soriano DH
- Schierholtz RF
- Castillo C
- Hairston CF
- Jackson LF
- Baez SS
- DeJesus CF
- Sappelt RF
- Bogusevic DH
- Nelson 1B
- Navarro C
- Villanueva 3B
- Chavez LF
- Maysonet 2B
- Gonzalez SS
5 Things to Watch
- The bullpen battle. Whereas it once looked pretty solid at least one spot remains open. Lefties have an advantage but performance matters too. What Sveum likely is looking for is a guy who can throw strikes consistently.
- Albert Almora may sub DeJesus in CF. He is the best CF defender in camp so that alone would be worth monitoring.
- Dan Vogelbach may get in a couple of ABs at either DH or 1B. Hoping he plays 1B to see how the weight he lost affects his mobility.
- Except for one game, Brett Jackson has had a great spring. Dale Sveum has said he will start in Iowa but Jackson isn't making it easy. He's hitting .375 with a 1.364 OPS. He has struck out 3 times in 11 PAs, which is a 27% rate. Short sample size but I can live with that. Remember that two strikeouts came in the one game that Jackson struggled.
- The Cubs appear to like what Johermyn Chavez has shown in limited play. He gets a start and we should see extended play from him today. He won't make the MLB roster but could play his way on to Tennessee or even Iowa.